Looking for the best bars in Adelaide? From the swanky 2KW with panoramic views, to cosy Maybe Mae, here are Adelaide's top 10 bars.
1. 2KW Bar and Restaurant
2KW is the kind of world-famous destination bar that visitors put on their must-do list and locals love as their go-to. Award-winning hospitality creator and part of the fabric of Adelaide, Martin Palmer, has played on all the strengths of a beautiful site and with a stellar line-up of hospitality professionals, has delivered an exciting new standard in South Australian bars.
Staff have been cherry-picked from Australia’s finest venues and there's a buzzy kitchen feeding your fancy, from pizza to a several-course sit-down dinners, meaning you don’t have to leave all night. But if you do, Jamie’s Italian is right downstairs.
2. La Rambla
The ambitions of young entrepreneurs are shaping Adelaide’s growing bar scene. La Rambla is the ambition come to life of three young friends with a love of all things Spanish. They’ve transformed a 150-year-old warehouse, exposing its old, rustic features as a backdrop to earthy, authentically Spanish eats – the chef is Spanish – and a well-priced drinks menu that ranges from jugs of sangria, to Spanish beers, fine wines and cocktails.
Open for lunch, and with DJs in the evening, this is a place to relax, have fun, and wave your hands about in passionate Spaniard-style conversation over a $15 cocktail or two.
3. 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,” 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.
Chef Duncan Welgemoed came to Adelaide from Johannesburg by way of London, where he worked closely with Heston Blumenthal at Fat Duck. He celebrated 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 our 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. They can 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.
5. Hains & Co
Hains & Co is Marcus Motteram’s contribution to the growing small bar 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.
6. 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 and an art deco inspired timber and mirrored décor, that once ensconced, is 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 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.
7. La Buvette
La Buvette is the domain of Dominique Lentz, who moved to Australia from France a decade ago. His (and wife Hayley’s) bar is inspired by those of Europe, but there’s no cultural clichés to be seen in the gleaming blue-tiled space. Combining clean lines and exposed brick, Lentz wanted to create something that speaks of today’s France, not a touristy tricked up France.
It’s still unmistakably French, with Gallic music playing and French waiters. The mostly organic and biodynamic wine list is two thirds French, one third South Australian and the drinks list extends beyond cocktails into the world of aperitifs and liquors. The bar menu offers offering cheese and charcuterie. And what would a French establishment be without escargot? Here, it’s the kind of garlicky buttery goodness that would satisfy the most fussy Parisian.
8. Udaberri Pintxos y Vino
Another place that achieves that rare balance of being European themed without looking like something from a theme park, Udaberri 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 consists of pressed copper, wooden beams, a 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. It's 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. Udaberri is a veteran of the city’s bar scene and is still going strong.
9. 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, 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.
There’s plenty more bar stools to perch on before you think you’ve exhausted our list! Be sure you check out the much-loved-by-locals list below:
Bar Torino – Hutt Street, Adelaide
Mr Goodbar – Union Street, Adelaide
Hennessy Roof Top Bar – Mayfair Hotel
Alfred's Bar– Peel Street, Adelaide