Adelaide’s pubs, cafés, bakeries and cheap eats have satisfying meals and sinful treats, all for less than a lobster. And when it comes to the bill you can pay with confidence, knowing these venues take American Express.
Sitting outside in the plane-tree shade, the Kentish Hotel’s regular crew – silver-fox media types and real-estate suits – dip buttery sourdough into bowls of tomato broth. This sprightly sauce is all that remains after they’ve polished off a dozen big black mussels – firm and juicy, rather than bloated and fatty – and scooped up the attendant chunks of chorizo. Garnished with basil and cress, even the entrée size is an entirely satisfying lunch or dinner.
Named after AFL footballer Rory Sloane (“He’s in here all the time,” says the barmaid), this chunky food-tube is packed solid with hot roast pork, rice, guacamole, Asian ’slaw, coriander, cucumber, tomato and corn salsa. The overriding flavours are of charcoaled pork and coriander – more akin to a Vietnamese bánh mì than a burrito. But it sure is a super-calorific shot to the system (enough to make you want to kick a funny-shaped ball around a paddock).
It’s surprising to find such a virtuous mound of salad on an Adelaide pub menu – a sure-fire artery cleanser in defiance of trad pub-grub norms. Colourfully entwined slices of carrot, cucumber, lettuce, red capsicum with peanuts and looong vermicelli noodles, it’s the perfect dish with which to launch your detox. The ‘spicy’ comes courtesy of a slick, red dressing: sop it up from the bottom of the bowl with the accompanying bread roll.
This pile of four, tightly rolled digits arrives quickly after ordering – a nod to an efficient kitchen (or perhaps just a ready-to-rumble deep fryer). Topped with sprigs of coriander with a small tub of sweet plum sauce on the side, it’s a modest repast by any measure. But first bite…boom! A flavour eruption of super-moist duck, carrot and green beans ensues – all the more satisfying when paired with a cold pint of Coopers on a warm afternoon.
Should old-school pub kitchens dare to meddle in the complex realm of veganism? The Metro in downtown Adelaide gives it a go. Three golden-fried chickpea-and-zucchini balls triangulate around a spicy salad of crispy green beans, snow peas, rocket, grilled cherry tomatoes and sautéed mushroom, pasted in a mouth-heating chimichurri sauce. The kofta balls might be a tad heavy for some, but they sure are filling.
Sure, it’s pricey for a cheeseburger, but it’s a cheeseburger fit for a king. An inch-thick patty of ground brisket and chuck steak is gloriously juicy, clad in a sweet, seeded brioche bun with crunchy bacon, stretchy cheddar, pickles and generous sluices of housemade aioli and ketchup. Served on a timber cheeseboard, it’s messy and moist – sidestep the cutlery and get into it with your hands. Substantial and masterful.
Sea-salty and zesty, the Wharf’s classic Kilpatrick version will convert even the most ardent of mollusc-haters. A half dozen shells arrive on an oversized white plate, deftly poised on a bed of rock-salt. Surprise, surprise… the oysters are hot! Too often this recipe is pre-prepared then shoved in the fridge, but the Wharf makes them to order, gloriously sticky with crisp bacon and a little fork to prompt their exit from the shell. Superb.
As any Great White shark will tell you, the sardines around Port Lincoln are the best. Here at the Gilbert Street Hotel they arrive on two slabs of toast, spread with a lush layer of orange romesco and topped with a scatter of sweet currants and half-a-dozen rocket leaves. The currants make a big impression, the confluence of sugar and saltiness an unexpected delight. It’s creative, interesting bar food.
Ducking into the Mile End for a quick drink before a show at the Thebarton Theatre? Further fortify yourself with a plate of these crunchy, iron-rich cubes, their charcoal carapace giving way to tender beef inside. This textured encounter comes with a serious chilli shot, delivered via a sticky, housemade bourbon-and-chipotle barbecue sauce. This is dude food done deliciously well.
By Blackbird bakes a mean croissant – warm, butter-rich and airy, and in this case interleaved with smoked salmon, avocado, crunchy-fresh bean sprouts a liberal smear of seeded Dijon mustard. The combo makes an ideal day-starter – light enough to let you run for the bus, but with enough protein to get you through your first meeting. If neither of these apply, sit back with another coffee and eyeball the cake cabinet.