Top 10 bars in Adelaide

The kind of world-famous destination bar that visitors put on their must-do list and locals love as their go-to place – that’s what the founder of 2KW set out to establish.

1. 2KW

And that is exactly what he has achieved. Award-winning hospitality creator and part of the fabric of Adelaide, Martin Palmer has played on all the strengths of a beautiful site and built on them with a stellar lineup of hospitality professionals who deliver an exciting new standard in South Australian bars.

The rooftop of a landmark bank building, the outdoor terrace affords an incredible panorama of gardens, Government House, the Adelaide Oval, Saint Peter’s Cathedral and more.

Staff cherry picked from Australia’s finest venues include sommelier James Parham, previously of Adelaide leading light and longtime industry leader, Chianti Classico, whose wine list, showcasing local and the best of the world and ambitiously constructed to be a cut above, is reason enough itself to drop by.

A buzzy kitchen feeding your fancy, from pizza to a several-course sit-down dinner featuring local produce, means you don’t have to leave all night.

Level 8, 2 King William St, Adelaide. Phone (08) 8212 5511.

2. Bank Street Social

Bank Street Social is so proudly South Australian even the pizzas are named after the state’s splendid food regions. Regional by name, regional by nature; each is resplendent in the ingredients native to their moniker. The Barossa features roast Barossa chicken, The Hills features Mount Barker chorizo, Hills potato, and local parmesan, The Vale is laden with McLaren Vale olives among other delicious ingredients and The Riverland is seasoned with Murray River pink salt.

When it comes to drinks, Bank Street Social specialises in South Australian craft beer and cider, boutique SA wines and Australian gin and whisky. With a stated philosophy to be: “Committed to showcasing the best young SA winemakers and brewers the state has to offer, bringing the latest new releases to our taps and wine-list every month,” Bank Street Social is South Australian all over. But it’s no gimmick. This is genuine commitment and philosophy.

Swing by Friday and Saturday nights for DJs playing till late while you enjoy the state’s best.

48 Hindley Street, Adelaide.

3. Africola

Chef Duncan Welgemoed comes to Adelaide from Johannesburg by way of London, where, among several decorated restaurants, he worked closely with Heston Blumenthal at Fat Duck.

The celebrated chef of Bistro Dom has headed out with his own concept, creating Africola, a bright, lively joint that’s part restaurant, part bar. And like Blumenthal’s audacious brilliance, Welgemoed has confidently brought something wildly different to anything else to the city.

A cacophony of colour, flavour, music and fire, Africola has the kind of festiveness reminiscent of Afrikaan Heritage Day. It’s a happy, hospitable, buzzing and beautiful venue with barbecue at its heart.

Welgemoed deliberately designed it as a place where guests can come for a drink and a snack at the bar and watch the kitchen at feverish work, or sit down to a culinary journey through the mish-mash of influences of a country colonised by a succession of European powerhouses, with fire cooking a constant feature.

Like the food menu, the cocktails created by “Cocktail Scientist” Andrew Cameron include some ingredients you may never have heard of. The wine list features some fine boutique South Australians alongside intriguing South Africans. The best way is to simply dive in, head first. This is a place of adventure.

4 East Terrace, Adelaide. Phone (08) 8223 3885.

4. Haines & Co

With historic nooks and crannies and a labyrinthine network of laneways and hidden side streets, the urban landscape of Adelaide was a small bar heaven waiting to happen. And it didn’t take long for savvy small bar operators to get to making it happen, once the licensing laws changed to allow them to do so.

Hains & Co is Marcus Motteram’s contribution to the growing scene. The Adelaide-born hospitality veteran who helped shape Melbourne’s bar scene for 15 years (and who still owns establishments there) came home to be part of the excitement. After scouring the city for the right place, he found it in the West End, and bought the catering company which occupied it.

That company, Red Star, still operates from the premises. But Motteram changed the front of the corner bluestone beauty into a nautical themed bar specialising in gin and rum – there are upwards of 25 of each on the drinks list.

The name is derived from the old Hains Hunkin furniture store, once on Hindley Street, which was owned by Motteram’s grandfather. Granddad would be proud: it just won South Australian bar of the year at the Australian Bartender Awards.

23 Gilbert Place, Adelaide.

5. Maybe Mae

Peel Street has suddenly become small bar central, but Maybe Mae feels like it’s been here forever.

It does the basement bar thing so right, from its wood-panelled door, to its seductive green leather booths, an art deco inspired timber and mirrored décor, that once ensconced, it’s hard to leave.

It’s mature, but friendly and fun, with great tunes, great staff and a great cocktail list, running the gamut of classics with some changing specials.

But it’s the execution of said cocktails which really impresses. The expertise saw Maybe Mae win SA cocktail bar of the year at the recent Australian Bartender awards.

The trio of young co-owners have worked around Adelaide in top places and bring all their knowledge and expertise to play at Maybe Mae, so it’s a world-class speakeasy with a decidedly Adelaidean vibe: sophisticated but down-to-earth.

They also own the place directly above Maybe Mae, Bread & Bone Wood Grill, serving burgers and beers to Adelaide’s ravenous.

15 Peel Street, Adelaide.

6. Udaberri Pintxos y Vino

Another place that achieves that rare balance of being European themed without looking like something from a theme park, Ubaberri expresses its Spanishness in tapas, wine and sherries.

The small, low lit space on a cobbled laneway off Hindley Street can get pretty crowded and for good reason.

The décor elements of pressed copper, wooden beams, graffiti wall, wooden barrels, bench seats and pendant lighting, exposed pipes and plants, as well as a wall of recycled bottles defending the kitchen from the main part of the venue, are a cool backdrop to a transporting experience of DJs playing terrific vintage tracks, a seasonal menu of tasty snacks and some excellent drinks.

The staff manage to be effortlessly cool but charming at the same time – it’s a hallmark Adelaide small bar feat.

At nearly four years old now, Udaberri is a veteran of the city’s bar scene, and still going strong.

11-13 Leigh St, Adelaide. Phone (08) 8410 5733.

7. Clever Little Tailor

Named after the German fairy tale, there’s nothing at all grim about this beautiful little bar that holds a unique space in the scene.

Hamptons chic white wood-panelled bar and walls, circular caramel leather booths and banquettes, nautical light pendants, stone feature walls, cut crystal glassware, aproned bartenders, Aesop hand wash in the bathrooms and little swatches of fabric acting as coasters – this is all about meticulous detail creating a classy place for grown ups.

There’s something cheery and welcoming about its front windows that swing open into the street, where a smattering of tables and chairs invite alfresco imbibing. Chalkboards tell of wine specials and the regular drinks list offers a good selection of boutique beers, some top notch whiskies and other spirits, cocktails as well as wine by the bottle and glass.

You may have to wait for a table, but it’s worth it.

9 Peel St, Adelaide. Phone 0407 111 857.

8. Mothervine

From the owners of Adelaide’s finest wine store, East End Cellars as well as local luminaries such as Shaw + Smith’s David LeMire, Mother Vine is one serious wine bar. Open to reasonably late and featuring an extensive list of wines by the glass from around the world, it’s a real gem of a venue for serious lovers of the grape.

Exposed brick walls and a dark tiled bar exude a chic, warm warehouse feel. Service is slick, friendly and informed ensuring the wine list is easily navigated. Interestingly, some of the wines featured are pulled straight from the barrel giving you the impression you’re closer to the winemaker and winery of origin.

Food is fresh, relatively simple and ranges from smaller plates such as marinated olives to heartier fare all designed to complement the wine.

For those not so keen on the grape there’s a good range of beer and ciders on offer but Mother Vine is ostensibly about the wine.

22-26 Vardon Ln, Adelaide. Phone 08 8227 2273.

9. Nola

The name is short for “New Orleans Louisiana” and in this stylish space housed in the old Adelaide stables building, you can get a real taste of creole and Cajun food matched with a great range of Aussie craft brews and local whiskies.

Wander inside the bluestone building and it’s a classic southern saloon with leather booths and bentwood stools but there are strong links to its Aussie heritage – the bar itself is made from jarrah reclaimed from old Penfolds red wine vats.

And while there are tipples available from all over the world you can’t go past the local offerings considering there are over 10 to choose from in a constantly rotating list showcasing the nation’s microbreweries. Mix it up with a shot of whiskey with over 30 local whiskies to sample or a strong line-up of American favourites as well as wine (if you must) and this is one helluva bar.

On the culinary front, deep southern favourites such as fried green tomatoes, jambalaya and a pretty hearty gumbo round out a menu designed to give diners a taste of New Orleans.

293-295 Rundle St, Adelaide.

10. Pink Moon Saloon

This is one for the hipsters (minus the beards maybe), a small purpose-built venue in one of Adelaide’s liveliest precincts. Owners Marshall King, Dana Whyte, Crispian Fielke, Josh Baker and chef Matthew Standen have recreated something altogether unique for any city in the world. Think wooden cabin with high-pitched ceilings sitting in a pine forest. In the back corner is a small kitchen and a wood-fired oven. Homely wooden furniture lies throughout the space and then … wedge it between two buildings in an inner-city laneway. It’s so inviting - almost too cool.

Once inside, it’s a warm, exciting venue and with Standen behind the pans, the food is a cut above regular bar offerings. Reason being is it’s not just a bar – it’s a serious eatery also serving great cocktails, wine and craft beer. The fact it all happens in such a small space makes it all the more appealing.

It’s open till late and just wonderful all year round.

21 Leigh St, Adelaide.

Quick Facts 
Population Approx 1.2 million
Area 870 km2
Time Zone GMT +9.5
Languages English (official)
Currency Australian dollar (AUD)
Electricity 220–240v 50Hz
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