The comforting news for anyone whose partner is soon to set off to watch England play Australia in the Second Test at the Adelaide Oval in Australia in early December is that at least their eating out expenses should not be too high.
Adelaide is a compact, friendly city, with North Terrace conveniently lining up the Hyatt Hotel, the State Parliament, the Museum and Art Gallery, the Convention Centre as well as the casino in close proximity. And while it is home to a number of fine dining restaurants, most notably chefs Cheong Liew at The Grange in the Hilton and Tim Montgomery at The Manse, the real attraction of eating out here is the concentration of good value, good quality places invariably displaying a typically robust Australian approach to quantity.
One place that will immediately appeal to any cricket lover is Jasmin, an Indian restaurant which displays 20 cricket bats, each signed by all the Test players involved, in glass cases along two walls. Jasmin belongs to the Singh family and, 26 years on, while Mrs Singh still controls the kitchen her son, Amric, oversees the dining room. Our meal incorporated some distinctive dishes: fillets of barramundi and Punjabi lamb cutlets both cooked in the tandoor; an eggplant curry, that was delicious with the lamb, and an extremely hot beef vindaloo. More distinctive still was their feed me menu. Aimed principally at those who cannot decide what to order after a long day at work it could just as easily suit those too worn out by an equally long day at the cricket. This menu comes at two prices: AU$38 per person for the hungry and A$45 for the starving. Our à la carte dinner for 6 came to A$350, of which wine was almost half.
Two places struck me as a particularly enjoyable way to start the day. The first is any of the small chain of brightly coloured Cibo cafes which, while offering a good enough range of coffees to satisfy the increasingly discerning Adelaidians, also boasts a highly authentic Italian ice cream counter. The only time to avoid these cafes seems to be late morning at the weekends when the growing number of lycra-clad cyclists, currently indulging in the states latest pastime, descend on them.
More tranquil and with a more extensive menu is Urban, home to one of the citys most respected and bright-eyed chefs, Bethany Finn. Her restaurant is located on the ground floor of a former hospital (the upper floors are now apartments) and is extremely bright and breezy as is her food which, while it has a fundamental grounding in Tuscany, also gets its inspiration from France, Asia and Australia.
Simon Kadarchi is an equally enterprising restaurateur. His initial restaurant, The Melting Pot, with its tasting menus and excellent wine list comprising the best of Australia and overseas, continues to be the place to go for many involved in the extensive, local wine industry. Now it is really living up to its name with Jordan Theodoros at the stoves who has cooked in Myanmar, Hong Kong and alongside David Thomson, the Thai food expert, in Sydney.
Next door, Kadarchi has bolted on Melt, an excellent pizzeria but one that characteristically delivers far more extensive flavours than most. While the pizza toppings are far from mundane, such as one with garfish, prawns and capers and another with roast duck, mushrooms, cherries and shallots the small kitchen also produces a very good range of meze, most notably hummus with ground lamb and pinenuts to which the locally brewed Coopers Pale Ale was a terrific accompaniment. Melt also produces a daily braised dish, a casserole or spare ribs, to ensure its regular customers never grow bored.
In the unlikely event of rain or an early England victory there are numerous day trips for those interested in good food and wine to the nearby wine producing areas of McLaren Vale, the Adelaide Hills and the Barossa Valley of which the latter, at an hours drive, is the furthest from the city (Gary Grimes, www.ggca.com.au, provides a luxury, chauffeured service to all three areas).
But for those who want to stay in town the citys Art Gallery with its impressive collection of Australian painting from the 20th century is definitely worth a visit particularly as on the ground floor it encompasses one of the best yet most relaxed examples of a café/restaurant within an arts organisation.
Run by the flamboyant Cath Kerry, who used to be the chef at the Bridgewater Mill restaurant in the Adelaide Hills, Food at the Gallery offers just what any tiring museum visitor craves either side of lunch, cakes, coffees and various kind of sandwiches. But at lunchtime the kitchen definitely steps up a gear and out came a delicious ball of warm, crusted goats cheese with a watercress salad, celery soup with oysters Rockefeller and seared kingfish with crème fra
And as well as this friendly food came an equally friendly pricing policy with each of the first courses, main courses and desserts at the same price: AU$14.90 for the former, AU$25.90 for the mains and AU$11.90 for the latter. Not only are these very good value, but given that these restaurants often bring together groups of friends or colleagues meeting for reasons other than just eating and drinking, this approach struck me as thoughtful and practical.
Finally, there is Gouger Street with its string of lively and inexpensive restaurants ideally located between the Adelaide Central Markets and the Law Courts whose lawyers keep it busy during the day. Ying Chow delivered a really good, friendly supper although my attention could not help but focus on the next table where the local wine retailer had not only brought in several bottles of wine closely wrapped in silver foil to hide their labels for his seven guests to identify (a common practice among wine aficionados) but also a large fish which he had caught and proudly handed over the kitchen to cook.
Melt 1/160 King William Rd, Hyde Park 8272 8186
Art Gallery Café North Terrace, 8232 4366
Ying Chow 114 Gouger St, 8211 7998
Jasmin 31 Hindmarsh Square, 8223 7837
Chianti Classico 160 Hutt Street, 8232 7955
Assaggio 92 King William Rd, Goodwood 8272 4748
Lion Hotel 161 Melbourne Street, North 8367 0222
Gauchos 91 Gouger Street, 8231 2299
Melting Pot 160 King William Rd, Hyde Park 8373 2044
Urban Bistro 160 Fullarton Rd, Rose Park 8331 2400
Manse 142 Tynte Street, North Adelaide 8267 4636
Grange Hilton Hotel 233 Victoria Sq, Adelaide 8217 2000
Country/Wine Region Dining
Bridgewater Mill Mt Barker Rd, Bridgewater (Adelaide Hills) 8339 9200
Star of Greece 1 Esplanade, Pt Willunga (McLaren Vale) 8557 7420
Fino 8 Hill St, Willunga (McLaren Vale) 8556 4488
Barr Vinum 6 Washington St, Angaston (Barossa Valley) 8564 3688
XO Supper Club 173 Hutt Street 8215 0244