Restaurant Reviews

Adelaide's best restaurants right now

The dining scene continues to heat up in our nation's south; from a colourful North African eatery with lively atmosphere to a low-key Italian finer diner suitable for a solo feed or the whole crowd. Here are 10 kitchens we love, as seen in our 2019 Restaurant Guide.

Plates at Orana
Orana continues to set the standard for putting native ingredients, and the excitement and innovation show no sign of flagging. Jock Zonfrillo's 30-seat restaurant, dressed in blackbutt and acacia, is the launching pad for new ideas about Australian cuisine. But the 20-taste dégustation never loses sight of the need for things to taste good either. Pickled kohlrabi rolled into tiny cones and filled with fleshy Dorrigo pepper and quandong liqueur has spikes of lemon myrtle, while Geraldton wax gives crocodile consommé an aromatic lift.
Marron is dressed in native honey and macadamia – and the citric pop of green ants. It's a fascinating journey, guided by informed and engaged staff who suggest unconventional wines and juices that suit the unusual flavours. Orana's push to take its dining philosophy further provides a thrill that every curious diner should experience.
1/285 Rundle St, Adelaide,
Once a model of measured discretion, Magill Estate now revels in the thrill of change. The room remains a picture of modern elegance – low-slung leather wingback chairs at blackwood tables, a glass wall providing elevated views over vineyards to the city – but in the kitchen, Scott Huggins toys with bold ideas. Wallaby tartare on linseed wafer. A twist on Japanese eggplant with egg-miso glaze. A striking flavour collision of pork jowl, torched fig and salty jamón. The menu offers choices between some dishes, with Huggins adding final touches before serving diners tableside for a dash of theatre. Even the matched drinks offer twists, with sake, Champagne and German riesling now complementing the core Penfolds range. For a taste of what's to come, meanwhile, Project Night menus each Wednesday (four courses for $100) present the kitchen's latest experiments.
78 Penfold Rd, Magill,
Plates at Magill Estate
Using the Adelaide Botanic Garden that surrounds his kitchen for inspiration, Paul Baker embraces seasonal change in nimble menus that capture complexity and freshness. A melange of Satsuma plum, smoked green apple and ginger smartly cuts through the richness of pig's head terrine, while the earthy tones of a pretty beetroot tart are lifted by pickled apple, fried rosemary and horseradish. Side dishes are beautifully composed combinations such as sautéed broccolini on green chilli oil, dressed in smoked buttermilk with rye pangrattato. Kitchen influence even colours the drinks list, with house-made vermouth and beer complementing an enticing array of mostly South Australian wines. Recent refurbishment added a sharp, modern tone to the glass-walled pavilion. It provides the right foil for Baker's intelligent food, elevating an impressive dining experience.
Plane Tree Dr, Adelaide,
Africola now has striking photographic art across its walls, refreshing the look of an eatery that remains blazingly ahead of the curve. An inventive menu wraps North African inspiration around excellent local produce: whole grilled cauliflower is topped with tahini sauce and spices, a jumble of grilled baby peppers is in harmony with sweet almond aïoli, roasted tomatoes are folded through flamegrilled peaches and mozzarella balls. A plump fillet of kingfish belly, pan fried in brown butter, is cut through with fermented tomatillos. Sassy staff deliver snacks such as the tea sandwich stuffed with roasted chicken skin, lubricated with a sharp selection of wines and ingenious cocktails. Generous serves and modest prices attract a young audience, and their buzzy energy, along with chef Duncan Welgemoed's bright ideas, reaffirm Africola's status as essential.
4 East Tce, Adelaide,
Shobosho amalgamates Korean and Japanese barbecue with cheeky Aussie attitude. The kitchen team yells "Hai!" as dishes are swiftly dispensed from a gleaming line of steel fire pits and grills. It's great theatre, especially for those planted on stools lining the service counter. For maximum fun, order a long trail of snacks – beef pot stickers with feisty chilli bite, wagyu oyster blade kushiyaki in yakiniku sauce, and juicy tsukune yakitori. A superb katsu sando deserves a glass of Asahi black – part of an attractive drinks list stretching from skin-contact white wines to top-shelf sake. The seriously hungry gravitate to teriyaki-glazed chicken from the rôtisserie, or dry-aged sirloin off the robata grill, topped with a yuzu-infused spin on Béarnaise. Sign off with a kooky ice-cream dessert, mixing flavours from pumpkin and miso to toasted sesame and chocolate.
17 Leigh St, Adelaide,
6. The Pot.
Fresh from a stint at Magill Estate Restaurant, (now-former) chef Emma McCaskill's first solo venture was with restaurateur-of-the-moment Simon Kardachi at a cosy eatery. The updated space and menu results in a refined bistro focused on regional food and wine. Brine-soaked sardine with chilli relish on a linseed cracker, topped with pickled shallot and dill, is a winning opener, followed by a vibrant salad that teams the crunch of just-blanched asparagus and fennel with black lentils and a lemony, ash-topped labne. Wood-roasted whiting is elevated by the umami wakame, shio koji and capers. Could the pork loin chop be juicier? Its flavours work well with dill pickle, pineapple chutney and fennel flowers nonetheless. Enjoy the expansive choices by the bottle or glass and finish with Mint Slice Vienetta – a heavenly play on two favourites, with layers of cream, ice-cream and minty goodness.
Update 22 November 2018: Emma McCaskill has now left The Pot, with Adam Liston and Max Sharrad stepping into the kitchen.
160 King William Rd, Hyde Park,
The Pot
Osteria Oggi covers a lot of bases. The almost-hidden modern Italian is a fine place to stop for a cocktail and a snack; it's one of the better restaurants in town for a solo dinner at the bar; it would shine as a gathering spot for a large family celebration. The long entrance, with black-and-white tiled floors and a bar flanking one wall, opens onto an atrium-like dining room that manages to feel simultaneously classic and cleanly contemporary. Entrées juxtapose beautifully fresh ingredients with contrasting punches of flavour: kingfish crudo topped with rounds of radish and bursts of bittersweet grapefruit, say, or salty pan-fried scamorza cheese making fruity friends with two kinds of citrus. Pasta is the star of this show, though – fat pappardelle, for instance, with chicken livers and the wicked bitterness of chicory. Oggi is Italian ambition in Adelaide, with the wine list to match.
76 Pirie St, Adelaide,
Osteria Oggi
Chef Quentin Whittle's smart Norwood bistro is a stone's throw across the parklands from downtown Adelaide, yet captures the pulse of what's buzzing in the city laneways. The room – a long, narrow wine bar opening onto a bright dining atrium – feels rather Parisian. Enthusiastic wait staff provide the useful tip that most dishes are best enjoyed shared. A tender octopus entrée, with gutsy fermented chilli and paprika bringing the heat, is enough to feed two. The chicken is even more substantial, tanned by roasted turmeric and accompanied by red chillies, snake beans, okra, lime and heat-curled makrut lime leaves. These are bold flavours that meld cultural influences, ideally suited to crisp white wines from an eclectic list that stretches from Geelong viognier to Chablis. Confident and stylish – if only Adelaide's sprawling suburbs had more bistros like this.
127 The Parade, Norwood,
Peel Street kick-started Adelaide's inner-city laneway revival with a winning combination of generous plates singing with herbs, grains and goodness to share. There's also a buzz from an open kitchen, a simple but smart drinks list, and waitstaff who know they're onto a good thing. Chefs Jordan Theodoros and Martin Corcoran draw on influences from the Middle East and South East Asia but aren't afraid to mix things up in bold flavour combinations. Try king prawns with pancetta teamed with watermelon, strawberry and lemon yoghurt dusted with sumac and pistachio, or just-warmed buffalo mozzarella with grilled peach, prosciutto, chilli and preserved lemon, topped with basil and olive oil. A salad of shredded chicken, peanut, lime leaf and lemongrass balances hot, sweet and sour adroitly. Finish with one of two desserts or a simple cheese plate of Comté and Saint Agur.
9 Peel St, Adelaide,
Chef Jock Zonfrillo's re-imagined Blackwood operates as a twin business; Orana is upstairs, but the bistro looks at life through a less formal lens. Its room is painted in smart navy, white and camel, with a buzzing bar in one corner. Windows open to Rundle Street, and street-food inspiration shines in a buttery golden roti dotted with prawn mince and garnet-coloured fermented chilli chutney. Coffin Bay oysters are huge, embellished by subtle habanero and citrus. Main courses are on-trend: blue kangaroo fillets with kale and quinoa; mussels and Goolwa pipis on a swirl of spaghetti. Staff flit between tables, suggesting wines from the SA-centric list. Dessert is a strong finale, with a chocolate brownie stack with ruby grapefruit, macadamia and salted caramel. Orana gets all the press, but Bistro Blackwood isn't far behind – energetic and pumping with self-belief.
285 Rundle St, Adelaide,
See all the winners of our 2019 Restaurant Guide Awards.