Africola, an "African-ish" restaurant in the east end of Adelaide, is a riot of colour, sound and flavour. At its heart: Duncan Welgemoed, a towering South African-turned-South Australian that's made a name for himself with bold, wildly delicious dishes like chicken skin sandwiches and whole-roasted cauliflower. He's a regular at events and restaurants around Australia and the world, but Adelaide – and its treasury of singular bars and eateries – is his happy place. As he and his peers navigate life post-coronavirus, he's optimistic that the dining scene in the little-capital-that-could will continue to command international attention. "We're one of the first places on the planet that's reopening properly so I can say pretty confidently we'll be a benchmark for how that's done and what it means, moving forward, to be a restaurant," says Welgemoed, who will be releasing his debut cookbook in late 2020. "Everyone's eyes will be on South Australia and Adelaide. Because there's a small country-town mentality here, the community is really strong and everyone is supporting each other."
As told to Jessica Rigg for The Local Tongue.
Adelaide's dining scene is consistently good. It's a smaller city than Sydney or Melbourne, but I would say the dining demographic is a lot more sophisticated. You've got a lot of farmers. You've got a lot of winemakers. You've got a lot of people that travel heaps. They recognise good produce, good booze and good food. To convince them to dine in your establishment, you've got to offer a really great product. You can't rest on your laurels in this town.
Hot new thing: Leigh Street Wine Room
Leigh Street Wine Room is a wine bar serving on-point small dishes and an incredible wine list of hard-to-find minimal intervention and natural-leaning wines. That married with what Nathan Sasi is doing in the kitchen and Sali (Nathan's wife) running the floor ensures it's somewhere I'll keep going back to. Nathan's known for his smallgoods and they are fucking legendary. His grilled-tongue skewer is awesome, as is the focaccia that every table gets.
9 Leigh St, Adelaide, SA, leighstreetwineroom.com
Afghan flavours: Parwana Afghan Kitchen
Parwana is one of the most consistent restaurants in the world and home to some of the best Afghani food outside of Afghanistan. It is run by family and the food is cooked and served by family. As the story goes, Mama Ayubi used to be the chef for the king of Afghanistan, and the food served at the restaurant is a royal banquet menu, while their off-shoot Kutchi Deli Parwana is a celebration of street food. The Ayubis do what they do with heart, integrity and flair.
124B Henley Beach Rd, Torrensville SA, parwana.com.au
Caffeine hit: Exchange Specialty Coffee
At Exchange Coffee, the coffee's sick, the food is interesting and the service is good. The water is at the right temperature and has the right sparkle: it's really laser sharp like that.
1-3/12-18 Vardon Ave, Adelaide SA, exchangecoffee.com.au
Late-night institution: Ying Chow
It's cheap, cheerful and abrupt, but it's open late and it's a good time when you're drunk. Everyone's got their favourite dishes; my go-tos are mapo tofu, the BBC – bean curds, beans and chilli – and the salt and pepper eggplant.
114 Gouger St, Adelaide SA
Value for money: Golden Boy
I would say Thai restaurant Golden Boy has been the busiest restaurant in the state and has been smashed with takeaway orders. There's a brilliant curry menu – the green chicken curry is a staple and the massaman is special. They make curry properly, from the way they crack the coconut cream to using amazing wagyu chuck with really good fat content. The flavours are big and the portions are generous – you can feed six people with a couple of curries and some rice.
309 North Terrace, Adelaide SA, golden-boy.com.au
All-day French dining: Hey Jupiter
Hey Jupiter is like an all-day France-Soir (Melbourne) and is all about its owners, Christophe and Jacqui. For breakfast you can have the croque monsieur or the continental breakfast with ham and pastries and a little bottle of champagne, then move onto lunch for steak frites or daube of beef. Then in the evening, you're having caviar or really good French classics like coq au vin. It's unashamedly French and great.
11 Ebenezer Pl, Adelaide SA, heyjupiter.com.au
Where to drink wine: Hellbound
Hellbound is a proper South Australian wine bar. When I say it's South Australian, I mean it's a clubhouse for winemakers, chefs, hospo workers, and fashion and PR people. The wine list is built on what we want to drink. It's got a really great natural selection and the spirit collection is excellent.
Basement/201 Rundle St, Adelaide SA, hellboundwinebar.com
Old-school hospitality: Meze Mazi
I like taking my family to Meze Mazi which is around the corner from our house in Prospect. It's probably Adelaide's best Greek restaurant. You've got the real old-school hospitality of owner Andrew Papadakis, who's the type of guy that remembers the table every customer likes and their first drink order. There's some fun stuff on the menu, too.
86B Prospect Rd, Prospect SA, mezemasi.com
The morning after: Pho Minh
There's a place called Pho Minh in Mansfield Park which is the OG gangster pho joint. I get the oxtail pho and a side of broken rice with meat, eggs and chilli sambal. Generally I go there to top up my serotonin levels from the night before.
7/86 Wilson St, Mansfield Park SA
Last but not least: Africola
Africola. My interpretation of African dishes using world-wide techniques. It's delicious, simple and interesting.
4 East Terrace, Adelaide SA, africola.com.au