South Australia has a long-held reputation as a source of high-quality produce, but Adelaide is only now emerging as a national eating and drinking destination.
In the heart of the Adelaide CBD, the Adelaide Central Market has stood as a beacon of SA’s regional produce for 150 years. Over that time, as South Australia’s culinary identity has evolved, so too has the makeup of the Market.
Maria Rosella owns and runs Central Market institution Lucia’s Pizza & Spaghetti Bar, which her mum, Lucia, founded in 1957, one year after immigrating to Australia.
“Because they weren’t sure how it was going to be received. How do you know? They had to explain what pizza was.”
Upon the eatery’s opening, the city’s local paper reported of a strange new delicacy come from afar: “Pizza is a native Italian food, made of delicious Italian bread, skinned tomato, grated cheese and herbs.”
“It started off as just a bar with seven stools, so it was a tiny little place,” Rosella says. “Because they weren’t sure how it was going to be received. How do you know? They had to explain what pizza was.”
Lucia continued her gastronomic missionary work, weaning her customers off Bonox and onto moka pot coffee, just in time for café culture and espresso to arrive the 1960s.
Pizza and coffee are now commonplace, but more importantly, Adelaide’s hospitality industry has come to be defined by the central components of the Market’s and Lucia’s joint story: an infatuation for fresh, local produce, and a pioneering spirit.
Below are eight reasons to eat your way around Adelaide.
1. Adelaide Central Market
From Tuesday through Saturday, grocers in the Central Market shout the day’s specials above the bustle, and shoppers pick from the abundant produce. Stalls range from the well-established (like stalwarts Lucia’s and Charlesworth Nuts) to the relatively recent revelations, like Real Falafel, now serving its falafel sabich and shakshouka from an expanded shopfront, and Cozy Cakes, which, on the day SBS Food visits, has set up at the short-term pop-up Producer in Residence stall.
“The foot traffic here, it’s amazing. We can find every nationality, that’s why I thought it would be great to promote my website and to see if this type of cake will be good for the Australian taste,” says Cozy Cakes founder Helena Guimaraes.
Be sure to visit on a Friday night when stallholders open for dinner service and the fishmongers set up a freshly shucked oyster stand. Just don't be the fool who rocks up on a Sunday when the market is closed.
2. Market Plaza Food Court
If you head south-west through the Adelaide Central Market, you’ll hit another bustling institution: the Market Plaza Food Court. From Monday to Saturday the lunch crowd filters through the array of Asian eateries – with everything from specialty chicken rice, bento, and laksa shops on offer – but on Friday nights the fluorescent food court heaves with people and tables are scarce. Contemporary Japanese Deli is a recent addition to the court, opening up their second CBD shop, specialising in Japanese curries.
Chef Jock Zonfrillo has brought many concepts to Adelaide, but the crown jewel among them is Orana, which operates as one of the few restaurants taking the latter part of its Modern Australian tag seriously.
Working alongside Indigenous communities across the country, Zonfrillo has brought Australian ingredients into a fine-dining context, showcasing what can be achieved by making use of native produce.
4. Parwana Afghan Kitchen
Run by the Ayubi family, Parwana is a favourite throughout Adelaide, and might be the busiest restaurant in Adelaide’s suburban west. Afghan hospitality is the cornerstone of the business, and anyone who has dined will come away raving of the banjaan borani (eggplant curry) and narenj palaw (a rice pilaf dish with candied orange, almonds and pistachios). Parwana doesn’t stock alcoholic beverages, but it is BYO and corkage is donated to charity.
5. Allegra Dining Room
Whatever your thoughts on vegan culture, Allegra Dining Room is bound to offer a new perspective. Founders Melissa and Federico Pisanelli, who also own and run the restaurant and pizzeria Etica, located below Allegra, have produced a hyper-seasonal 10-item set menu of wholly plant-based dishes, bringing into being Adelaide’s first vegan fine-dining restaurant.
6. Taco Quetzalcoatl
Located a half-hour drive north of the city, Salisbury was not known as a food destination, until Margarita Galindo Gallardo opened up her homestyle taqueria, Taco Quetzalcoatl.
From a humble shopfront, Margarita’s house-made tortillas, stuffed with a range of both Mexican- and Aussie-oriented fillings, tamales, burritos and huaraches garnered international attention, leading to a second Taco Quetzalcoatl to open in the more inner-suburban location, Unley.
For all the breadth of cuisine on offer throughout Adelaide, the city’s dessert crowd has long stood underserved. Shibui entered this market in no half-measure. Founded by Quang Nguyen, Thy Nguyen and Lisa Chao, the dessert bar combines nostalgic flavours with the full weight of Quang’s cheffing abilities. Not all Shibui dishes are instantly recognisable – neither the mandarin cheesecake nor the yuzu meringue pies look anything like a cheesecake or pie – but they make up for it in texture and taste.
In Yiddish, ballaboosta is an endearing term meaning the perfect homemaker, and at this Halifax Street restaurant, she is also on staff. The restaurant was founded by Naj Moubayed, but the kitchen is the dominion of his mother, Betty (better known as Aunty Betty to regular customers). It is from Betty that the restaurant’s flavours originate: the kibbeh, the spiced rice vine leaves, kafta, and samaki harra – a wood-oven-baked marinated fish dish. Throw in bottomless house-made, fresh-from-the-wood-oven pita, and you’ve got yourself a perfect lunch or night out.
Ainsley Harriott the Adelaide Central Market in the final episode of the brand-new season of Ainsley's Australian Market Menu. Catch it at 7:30pm Thursday 14 November on SBS, catch up on SBS Food at 7:30pm Sundays, or stream on SBS On Demand. Visit the Market Menu website for recipes, the episode guide and more.