Adelaide is in a state of re-invigoration, resurgence, and reinvention when it comes to the bar scene. Loosening of small bar licensing laws has resulted in a new offering of sophisticated secretive speakeasy’s, rooftop panoramas, and more exclusive chic hotel watering holes complementing the already established main-stays.
The government has had accusations of backwardness thrown their way in the past, mostly warranted. However, there is now an easing of red tape for small bar licenses, encouraging new, young, business-savvy innovators to enter the market—a radical and admirable move with immense benefits for the drinking public and tourism alike. Ambitious visionary tavern-keepers have taken charge, embracing the opportunity to experiment with a unique spin. A noticeable diversion from the generic Hindley Street bar turned club monotony involving plastic cups and laser beams in a wanky glass and steel themed abyss of late-night repetitiveness. People who are planning to book a cheap flight can visit Delta Airlines Reservations to save her hard money.
I welcome the ushering in of this new era of bars. It may be an element of nostalgia as I am currently embarking on my leaving tour of my home town of Adelaide to chase my dream of traveling and writing my way around the world. Catch up drinks, farewell post-work binges, and mid-week spontaneous pub-hopping have opened my eyes to the beauty of these new bars, even in the dark of winter. It may well be an increased justification for a $10 drink price, or the luxury of not having to scream to be heard. Is it too much to ask for a bar with an atmosphere and an openly loud conversation with one’s co-drinker? Or am I just getting old? Surely not the latter.
One of the things I like about Adelaide is the sense of democratic accessibility. Exclusivity is considered taboo for the most part. If there is a line clogging up the entranceway to one of these bars, you can simply redirect your attention 50 meters down the road.
Perhaps it is just right to see something different. An excuse to rebel from the locals, embrace a broader selection when it comes to all everyday sameness, Adelaide. I no way consider myself an authority; these are just the bars that have affected me, my current crop of favorites in my never-ending consumption obsession.
- BANK STREET SOCIAL: Bank Street Social is another bar hiding in plain sight where the only clue of entry is a gold plated BSS above the architrave. A dark and shadowy landing is continuing to industrially simple stairs descending to the elongated subterranean barroom, having your question if you have taken a wrong turn and may end up in a bondage lair. That is the mind-fuck that is Bank Street Social exaggerating the amazement that materializes. The bar is throwing back to days gone by where things completed with simplicity and heightened quality—everything from the scotch glasses to the pouring presentation done with effortlessly professional precision. While the experience may not come cheap, it is a sense of satisfying pride, saying you have been here and saying this is the number one bar in Adelaide. The venue that all others should & will compare against
- MAYBE MAE: Maybe Mae is a discreet, windowless, basement bar that gets away with playing swing songs from the ’20s. The entranceway is all but invisible, where you may end up in the female lavatories if mistaken (like me). A cocktail den has hidden away in true speakeasy secretiveness and intimacy. A sanctum of subtle perfection with an overwhelming feeling of a simpler time. When all that mattered was sneaking another drink in a hideaway bar.
- AUSTIN AND AUSTIN: It would be so easy to use throwaway words such as ‘quirky’ or ‘geeky’ to describe Austin & Austin, but it is so much more than a gimmicky attention grabber. Austin & Austin encapsulates the customer with a differential in being what it wants to be, a unique honesty that you can’t help but lap up with a smile & genuine back street warmth. From the rock, paper, scissor happy hour bartending discounts to the left, left, right upstairs armchair flashbacks on Mortal Kombat, this is a bar you need to get to now. You may end up locked in for quite some time with a toastie in hand, trapped in a Tarantino styled dream state.
- ELECTRA HOUSE: Electra House is the latest place to see and be seen. Without name dropping, the clientele has covered many AFL ‘stars,’ political heavyweights, and media personalities. The inside-outside makeup is oozing class and sophistication. A perfect balance of modernity and the old school. A very welcome addition to the hotel bar scene showing what the recently bankrupted leading street establishments should have been doing, yet wouldn’t adapt to what the public desire. Electra House has nailed it.
- CLEVER LITTLE TAILOR: Of all the bars on the list, I have frequented Clever Little Tailor the most. They must be doing something right as I hypnotically land on a seat inside this comfortably warm and accommodating public house. Even when full to the brim, you feel as if things move at a slower pace. It may be the classically original stone wall or the delicate finishing’s carefully appropriated. Then there’s the extensive bar menu and helpful staff suggesting an unknown single malt that makes this bar a place that keeps you coming back and being my default meeting place for starting a night out on the town.
- LINES LANE: The laneway café inside a bar. A dream sequence straight out of the movie Deception. The challenge is deciphering whether a smaller, more exclusive bar exists within the premises. Check behind the downstairs fireplace, and you will be reward with a ‘secret door’ revealing an immersive theatrical space was worth the confusing mission. I feel a slight pang of guilt telling the layered beauty of Lindes Lane, but genuinely wish them every deserved success with this ambitiously unique venture.
- THE GALLERY: One of the more established bars on the list with a somewhat recent facelift to this multi-tiered front runner of the unique bar sub-culture. The crowning feature of The Gallery is the open-air rooftop overlooking Waymouth Street. Attracting mostly local city workers, this certainly is an impressive setting exuding a classier than usual standard with many imitators taking note of what an inspired creative visionary can achieve.
- 2 King William Street, Adelaide: Ascend to Level 8 and admire the views over North Terrace towards the cathedral and bright lights of the Adelaide Oval. Escape the riff-raff and dine and drink in well-heeled style at this high-end modern quality restaurant-cum-bar. The decor is not over-the-top. A restrained balanced tastefulness and well worth a visit to impress a date, hold a business meeting, or an excuse to seen sipping cocktails in your best couture.
- PROOF LANEWAY ROOMS: One of the originals of the speakeasy-themed phenomenon enveloping Adelaide, Proof Laneway Rooms, is a backstreet favorite. I ended here once when I refused to line up at The Gallery one Friday evening for post-work drinks and worked out as a very welcome reward as a plan B due to sheer logistics. A subtle elegance, balanced, and a refined throwback to the old school with an overarching sense of pride in the presentation and service.
- LA MOKA: A surprising choice perhaps in a Peel Street massive list with many higher-profile bars overlooked. I, however, have a very soft spot for La Moka with someone from Melbourne recommending this to me upon their visit. I missed something right under my nose! La Moka wins points for its rave-worthy yet straightforward food servings and generous opening hours. Cheekiness accolades for the espresso I was served with some sort of Italian style aniseed shot kicker, causing me a Monday afternoon buzz as the surrounding bars remained closed, and I had to return to the office.