By Hannah Lott-Schwartz
Updated: June 14, 2019
Josie Withers/Courtesy of Botanic Gardens Restaurant

The strict, grid-like layout of Adelaide may suggest that South Australia’s capital is rigid and uniform — but it’s anything but. Marked by a square of greenery, the CBD, or central business district, is compact, which lends itself to competition thus has bred creativity, particularly in the culinary arts.

The beauty of Australian food is that it’s taken on international influence with elegance and is almost always (or at least in its best representations) infused with a heap of fun. Even the most voracious and enthusiastic eaters would be hard-pressed to complete an exhaustive survey of Adelaide’s dining options. Here, Travel + Leisure highlights a few standouts — from iconic to experimental, silver service to take-away — to whet your appetite.

Jasmin

Synonymous with the city itself, Jasmin has made regulars out of everyone from locals to celebrity chefs, and particularly the India national cricket team. It’s simply fine Indian food — as in exceptional, in every way, in every bite — and has been for the last 40 years, since the Singh-Sandhu family originally opened the then-unlicensed restaurant in 1980. Matriarch and chef Anant Singh, now in her late 80s, has no formal training, but learned how to cook from her mother, who emphasized freshness.

To this day, the restaurant starts the intensive process of making curries from scratch and hand grinds spices every morning, though Mrs. Singh, as she’s affectionately called, doesn’t work the kitchen full-time anymore (she still stops in to show the chefs new recipes). At Jasmin’s helm, Mrs. Singh has fed Elton John and Marco Pierre White (to positively enthusiastic reviews), but since 1996, she’s also been feeding the homeless every Thursday, an act that last year earned her recognition as the first Punjabi person to be named in the Australia Day Honours list.

Bistro Blackwood

Lewis Potter/Courtesy of Bistro Blackwood

The second child of internationally renowned chef Jock Zonfrillo — just a staircase away from his Restaurant of the Year winner Orana — Bistro Blackwood recently underwent a refresh, doing away with communal tables in the soft, cozy space and vamping up the menu. Zonfrillo can be seen dashing up and down the stairs and even out the door to his latest venture, Mallozzi, an Italian spot with salumi bar that opened late last year on the same block. What he most celebrated for, however, is his bush tucker. The Scottish-born chef masterfully incorporates indigenous ingredients, used for centuries by Aboriginals but overlooked by and large in contemporary Australian cuisine until recently, into elevated but simple bistro-style (at Blackwood) and upscale (at Orana) dishes that change regularly, according to what his purveyors have in supply.

Africola

Peter Tarasiuk

Tastefully loud, bright, and downright electric, Africola serves up food that matches the atmosphere. Johannesburg-born, North African–inspired Duncan Welgemoed presents a menu of charred and smoked meats and seafood, tangy pickles, and vegetables that will ruin you for all future plant-based dishes. The menu changes regularly, but if you spot them, do not leave without trying the wood-oven cauliflower, crispy chicken skin with hot dripping “tea sandwich,” and outlandishly satisfying tahini ice cream. Africola is closed Sunday and Monday, so plan accordingly if you’ve got limited time in the city.

Jamface

From left: Boaz Rottem/Alamy; Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Like most cities fortunate enough to have one, the Central Market is an institution in Adelaide, and this year marks its 150th anniversary of serving fresh produce and gourmet goods to the city. While it’s worth embarking on a self-led food tour within these walls alone, if you’re limited on time, don’t miss Jamface from former MasterChef contestant and Poh & Co host Poh Ling Yeow. She started the cafe — which features a menu made entirely in-house and from scratch, from the pastries and breads to the Australian food with a French twist — with her friend Sarah Rich as a pop-up before landing a coveted spot at the established market in 2015. Ling Yeow, who balks at the photograph it first, eat it second food trend, deliberately eschews schtick by adopting a self-proclaimed homely style of plating, putting food back where it belongs: in your mouth. Make reservations for the Friday night Crunch Club, which has become a favorite for the set menu complemented by local beer and wine. It’s a solid weekly send off, given that the cafe is closed Sunday and Monday.

Kutchi Deli Parwana

Simply stepping foot in Kutchi Deli Parwana sparks joy: bright blue walls with intricate painted details, a window-facing countertop, and comforting smells of curry, warm spices, and lamb kofta that tickle even the fullest of stomachs. The original Parwana Afghan Restaurant (both a New York Times–reviewed and community-loved eatery) in Torrensville was opened a decade ago by a family of Afghani refugees who came to Australia in the 1908s, and it’s the daughters who run this city offshoot, prime for quick eats and takeaway in the center of Adelaide. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay awhile should you score one of the coveted window seats — order the housemade chai and let the warmth hit you from all angles.

Sparkke at the Whitmore

From left: Aubrey Jonsson/Courtesy of Sparkke; Courtesy of Sparkke

There’s a certain derisive flavor to Aussie humor, complemented by general bluntness in approaching the everyday, both of which are front and center on the very cans themselves at Sparkke at the Whitmore. A mashup between a brewery, restaurant (with a rooftop bar), and social enterprise, Sparkke raises money through their beer and cider for causes like gender and sex equality, immigration, the climate crisis, and more. It’s an entirely female driven establishment, and opened appropriately enough on March 8, International Women’s Day, this year. Chef Emma McCaskill — a fine-dining alumna of The Pot/Nido, Botanic Gardens Restaurant, and Michelin-starred restaurants abroad — was recruited to run the kitchen, which she’s spicing up with her Indian background and a commitment to minimal waste, working directly with suppliers on plans for surplus produce.

Burger Theory

What started as the first food truck in Adelaide was spurred into a brick and mortar by the strength of demand alone. Burger Theory’s simple menu is an homage to the classic American burger (down to the bright orange American cheese) but with a twist: do it sustainably. The “theory” element of the brand refers to co-founders Dan Mendelson’s and Rob Dean’s belief that you don’t have to sacrifice the environment for a quality, low-cost burger. As a result, when they opened the brick-and-mortar in central Adelaide, they dropped chicken and pork products (i.e., bacon) from the menu and changed their burger recipe to feature a blend of kangaroo meat and beef. (There’s also a falafel burgers to satiate hungry vegetarians.) The Burger Theory website goes into great depth on the matter, but essentially, wild kangaroo meat, though less familiar and seemingly exotic, is more humane and sustainable than sourcing entirely from cattle. Plus, it tastes better than all-beef patties. Don’t believe them? Try a ’roo burger and get back to us.

Botanic Gardens Restaurant

John Kruger/Courtesy of Botanic Gardens Restaurant

Housed in an historic rotunda with full-length windows, the Botanic Gardens Restaurant celebrates the best of South Australia’s local produce by using what’s right in front of it: 120 acres of idyllic gardens, ripe with herbs, vegetables, and one of the finest collections of Australian flora in the country, all right in the center of the city at the Adelaide Botanic Garden. In 2017, chef Paul Baker earned both Chef and Restaurant of the Year awards for the unique restaurant, which is open for lunch weekdays and brunch and dinner on weekends. The set price menu has three- or four-course or degustation options, plus a wine pairing or botanical-inspired cocktails to round out the meal.

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