Adelaide really does have a lot to offer in terms of the hospitality scene. Small bars in particular have risen to popularity over the past few years, and finally, we can hear our mates’ tales over some pleasant background music and a fine glass of wine or a carefully curated cocktail. Out with blaring club sounds and vodka sunrises.
Both the West End and East End in the CBD are abuzz come weekends, and there are hidden nooks aplenty serving up tasteful tipple and ambience alike. We’ve put together a list of the best small bars in Adelaide’s city centre to help you on your merry sipping way – take a look.
1. La Buvette Drinkery
French in all its glory, La Buvette is your step into Gay Paree. Complete with streetside, Drucker bistro chairs, sip on French and local natural wines, boutique spirits, cocktails, and craft beer, all while indulging in French fare. Head inside where you’ll be met with exposed stone walls and beams, yesteryear globe light fixtures, wooden bar detailing, marble tabletops, and a deep blue colour palette that will make you fall in love. Keep a weather eye.
Where: 27 Gresham St, Adelaide
2. LOC Bottle Bar
Small in size, big on flavourtown. LOC is the place to be for an al fresco natural wine alongside boozy patrons whose playful energy engulfs the bars’ pocket of Hindmarsh Square, exuding a symphony of laughter amidst the city sounds. The funky joint is a hotspot for the hip youth of Adelaide, and if you’re looking to surround yourself with a pleasant crowd, LOC is the one. There’s no wine list at LOC, just a back wall of 150-odd bottles – take your pick and park up.
Where: 6 Hindmarsh Square
Blink and you’ll nearly miss it – this Hindley Street bar offers a refuge from the chaos on ‘the other side of Morphett Street’. With a slick fit-out along with soft tones, Nearly’s intimate space invites you to cosy up with a South Australin drops in focus. Divine chequerboard flooring gives European-cross-your-fancy-friend’s-house, and the big old bay windows make for an ideal people-watching possie. It’s minimal, it’s nice.
Where: 179 Hindley St
4. Leigh Street Wine Room
In Leigh Street Wine Room’s previous life, the space was but a simple laundromat – the high, curved ceilings are a nod to that bygone era which somewhat emulates the feeling of sitting inside a rotund washing machine. With sophistication at the forefront, the Wine Room offers a vast range of 400-odd bottles of minimal-intervention drops from across the globe and South Australia alike. The intimate space is either sunlit or dimly illuminated to perfection, highlighting the terrazzo flooring, bar and tabletops, whilst shining a light on Leigh Street Wine Room’s display of eccentric, vintage posters. Oh, and don’t skip the food.
Where: 9 Leigh St
Pastel Wine Bar is North Adelaide’s latest addition to the busting O’Connell Street hive. The day-to-late joint offers a super cool fit-out along with a plethora of delightful drops and fabulous fare. The restaurant-cross-bar boasts a retro-esque dining room completed with impressionistic artwork, and a sunny, green courtyard with snazzy decor; plus a few other intimate nooks where a glass of something in hand is more than welcomed. Find out more about Pastel Wine Bar here.
Where: 47 O’Connell St
6. 1000 Island
Perhaps Adelaide’s snazziest bar, 1000 Island is your cheeky hideout any dang night of the week. And although the name suggests tiki, you won’t come across grotesque jungle decor – instead a jazzy, Mid-Century room fit with snug booths, quirky prints, and a muddle of textures with a side of animal print, all aglow with hues of red and blue. The timber-lined space screams 70s-type lounge, crowned with two big old disco balls which complement DJs getting down with it behind the decks. The sweet escape shakes up sublime cocktails with the likes of pina coladas, freshly squeezed gin and juice, and Big Kahunas, a.k.a. conch shells the size of your noggin filled with booze and topped with flaming passionfruit. Sneak out the back for some fresh, laneway air.
Where: 15 Solomon St
7. Clever Little Tailor
Referred to amongst the locals as ‘CLT’, Clever Little Tailor stays true to its name – clever bartenders within a little stone alcove offering a tailored experience – not to mention the fashionable aprons worn by the bar staff. Guarded by two small but mighty olive trees, CLT invites you through to their exposed stone room, made spacious thanks to high ceilings and the addition of a mezzanine level. Hints of greenery contrast the mellow decor – which is how you’ll be feeling after a tipple of vino, a local beer, a crafty cocktail, or a little something from the thoughtful whisky selection. Perch up within the rustic elegance or nab an al fresco possie on Peel Street – prime tooshie real estate – with considered nibbles on hand.
Where: 19 Peel St
This Rundle Street bar in Adelaide’s East End is your snippet of downtown New York. BRKLYN (like, Brooklyn), focuses on gin and cocktails with a deli-style menu that offers a thoughtful selection of vegan options too, including fried chick’n and a hefty Ruben sandwich with house-made pastrami – definitely get it. Subway tiles and exposed stone walls encompass the lowly-lit bar, while BRKLYN’s balcony space is the ideal platform for people-watching and taking in some city-ish views. Local musicians amp up the subway busker ambience on occasion, and DJ nights take you through to the belly of a New York night on the town.
Where: 260-262 Rundle St
9. Pink Moon Saloon
Pink Moon Saloon’s cabin-type sanctuary appears a hole-in-the-wall, wedged between two solid buildings – step through the timber, A-frame facade and escape the Leigh Street wind tunnel. The shotgun structure guides you past a humble front bar, into an open-air leafy crux, and finishes in a warming cranny fit with booth-seating, where mood lighting is all the go. The narrow joint may be small in size but big on masterful cocktails, top notch spirits, and craft brews – attention to detail is Pink Moon’s middle name. In terms of fare – small space means small plates fit for snacking and chatting.
Where: 21 Leigh St
Hidden in Adelaide’s East End is NOLA – a New Orleans-inspired bar complete with a little bit of neon lighting and a little bit of exposed stone wall, combined with a slight Atomic Age fit-out. The surefire hotspot is big on independent craft beers which are poured from their 16 taps, huge on their whiskey collection of over 350, and a sensible cocktail selection to boot. Take a seat on the Vardon Avenue laneway, around the main bar, or upstairs where you can catch a glimpse of Rundle Street with a hint of live jazz. Wash it all down with some of NOLA’s delightful Cajun and Creole cuisine.
Where: 28 Vardon Ave
11. The Bibliotheca Bar and Book Exchange
Where: 1/27 Gresham St
Kinda simple, kinda grunge, Nevermind fills up a nook off of the Leigh Street hive. Head down ‘bin alley’ and you’ll be met with a luminous red flare, that’s Nevermind. The no frills joint is late-night friendly, and Melbourne-influenced – a den for hospo scene workers. Here you’ll find local beers, and refined cocktails where no drop goes unnoticed – the bartenders know a thing or two. And if the munchies kick in, gourmet toasties with crisps on the side are up for grabs. Catch high octane DJs on the weekend and R&B and vintage hip-hop on Thursday nights.
Where: 22A Leigh St
13. Leigh Street Luggage
But alas, if Nevermind isn’t quite your thing, pop to neighbouring Leigh Street Luggage for a hit of something completely different. Paying homage to its former travel supplies tenant, Leigh Street Luggage welcomes you aboard their European-inspired wine, amaro, and cocktail bar. It’s nothing short of proper business class inside the yesteryear room, serving up small Mediterranean eats with the likes of cured meats and fine cheeses atop vintage plates. Leigh Street Luggage’s decor extends the nod to its prior travel tenants too, flaunting part of a propellor, black and white aviation images, as well as suitcases stacked to the rafters.
Where: 22A Leigh St
14. Hains & Co
Another laneway, another bar – and all aboard – Hains & Co is Adelaide’s nautical-themed drinking hole. Round up your crew and set sail for good times amongst antiquated maritime decor, sailing ropes, and plenty of deep-toned carpentry. Get your bearings and roll up to the bar for something with the likes of rum (which is never gone), Pirate Life beers, and Dark ‘n Stormy cocktails, paired with a smokin’ cigar from Cuba, Nicaragua or the Dominican Republic. Hit the pavement streetside where there’s tonnes of outdoor seating – gotta be feeling that sea breeze.
Where: 23 Gilbert Pl
15. Bar Riot
In a South Australian first, Bar Riot boasts two unique wine receptacles, one of those being a custom-made, ceiling-suspended wine font that dispenses 14 different wines. The second marvel is an ancient stone wine vase, standing at an imposing two metres in height with the ability to hold 1000 litres of naughty grape juice. Unusually, Bar Riot invites patrons to refill their glasses from the mammoth vase. Find out more about Bar Riot here.
Where: 57 Gilbert St
There’s no need to prove themselves – locals already know that Proof is the place to be. Plonked in a laneway off of the beaten track, this gem of a small bar boasts an olde worlde, London-esque ambiance, but head upstairs and you’ll be met with an al fresco deck that is sandwiched between two high-rises. Speak of gluten – Proof serves up late-night toasties hot off the press which exude inviting fumes that waft across the marble bar. Beneath the stunning brass ceiling, sip on a selection of distinctive cocktails, a good old brandy list, and all of the essentials that’d you find at a refined wine bar.
Where: 9 Anster St
17. Alfred’s Bar
Peel Street’s entire hive is lined with beaut small bars, but Alfred’s is nestled smack bang in the middle of the precinct, and it’s a great place to start if you’re feeling overwhelmed with choice. With a mild Italian feel, and a nostalgic hint of nonna’s home, Alfred’s welcomes all drinkers. Whether you’re after a casual arvo beer, an after-work knock-off vino, or an ice cool cocktail in a celebratory fashion. Complete with a semi-secluded mezzanine, a wee section of bar seating, and the holy grail of Peel Street – pavement highchairs and tables.
Where: 14 Peel St
18. Maybe Mae
A proper OG and a hidey-hole nonetheless. Once through the series of archways and doors, step into Maybe Mae, a mysterious, 1950s-inspired speakeasy where good things happen in the dark. Best known for their award-winning cocktails and sustainability, Maybe Mae might just be up your alley, wait, down. Utilising seasonal and local produce, along with all the new fandangle cocktail techniques, you’ll be in for a treat. Although their drinks list is ever-changing, think: Plantation 3-Star Rum with pandan, coconut, papaya, banana, turmeric, and sesame; and strawberry botanical wine with apera, strawberry gum, anise myrtle, and wattleseed.
Where: 15 Peel St