articles / 24 Jul 2014

Here are seven of Adelaide's best new small bars


THE CITY JULY 24, 2014

JUST over a year ago, the Government said “hells yeah, let's open some small bars!” And for a city yearning for an alternative, it went down as smoothly as an Espresso Martini.

Now, it seems like every five minutes someone throws open the doors to a new joint.

From unloved alleyways to basement digs, there has been 39 applications for small-bar licences. So far, 26 have been handed out, with many more to come.

With such a cocktail of choices out there and a scene changing faster than you can say “another round”, The City's Monique Bowley and Sophie Perri meet the new kids on the small-bar block.

Bank Street Social - 27 Bank St.

Wednesday and Thursday 4pm to 12am, Friday 4pm to 2am, Saturday 6pm to 2am.

This polished underground bar is very aware of how cool it is. With a vintage industrial feel reminiscent of a New York bar, we‘re aware too. It teams exposed pipes and bricks with soft chesterfields and lighting. There's a dance floor for the adventurous, and for the sitting ducks, the low open booths make for good socialising (very important for a social club). The bar is crammed with local wines, beers and spirits. If this is social, we don't want to be anti.

Maybe Mae - Basement, 15 Peel St.

Monday to Saturday from 4pm

Maybe the hottest place we've ever seen. So many places claim to be a hole in the wall; this place actually is. With a door camouflaged by woodpanelling, make like Maxwell Smart and push until you find the opening. Once you do, you'll want to stow away for the night. This cosy bar has the tunes, the green leather booths and the acoustics for curling up and settling in. Oozing with a sexy ‘50s vibe, it manages to not take itself too seriously. The bar list has fun, voluminous cocktails and Krug alongside Southwark Bitter Tins, (just because bar owner Tori likes to drink ‘em). Bunker down, you won't want to leave.

Mother Vine - 22-26 Vardon Ave, Adelaide, opening in a matter of days. Fresh as a daisy.

The fathers of East End Cellar have got together on this little gem. They know a bucketload about wine but have managed to not be snobby about it. There's a less-is-more approach to the decor - a dark clean look with black tiles and concrete. It says; ‘let the wine shine'. A simple but familiar vibe to it, grape lovers will be able to flex their palate, and beginners won't feel out of place swilling here either. Also, there is wine straight from the keg. Kind of like a cask, but huge, wooden and not as frowned upon. Very approachable. It's just days away from opening, where you're sure to find an after work and pre-dinner drink crowd.

La Moka - 17 Peel St

Monday to Wednesday, 7.30am to 4.30pm. Thursdays and Fridays until late.

The latest addition to Peel St is this blink-and-you'll-miss-it Italian cafe, La Moka, which has been open for just three weeks.

Owner Manuel Francesconi has taken inspiration from Italy's eateries that work as cafes by day and bars by night.

“In Italy there are many places that run a breakfast place in the morning and do lunch, then turn into a bar at night,” says Manuel, who runs the café with his wife Linda.

“So we thought, OK let's try that - let's try to bring that to Adelaide.”

Francesconi, who moved to Adelaide from Bologna in 2006, has brought the Italian tradition of “aperitivo” to the table.

“It's a complementary platter that comes with wine, so smallgoods, cheese, egg frittata and olives,” he says.

“We have Italian and SA wines, like pinot from the Adelaide Hills and Northern Italy, imported and local beers and Campari-based cocktails.”

And coffee is still available at night.

“There are a lot of people who come for a few cocktails, then there are people who want a cup of coffee,” he says. “People say it's hard to find a place that does good coffee at night - you don't want to go to a restaurant just for coffee.”

Kaffana - 23 Peel St.

Tuesday to Friday for lunch and dinner. Saturday, 4pm-late.

With its exposed bricks and blue-lit circular bar, Kaffana fits in with all its cool neighbours on Peel St. The difference here is its genuine Serbian hospitality. With brothers Peter and Nick Vajic running the show and their mother making traditional meals in the kitchen, it's a bar that will make you feel like you're in the fancy loungeroom of a European household. The drinks menu has 27 different varieties of the traditional Serbian plum brandy slivovitz and six types of Serbian beer. The brothers, who ran Zorro's restaurant in Hahndorf, have been running the place for three months now and say they're loving their spot in the CBD's little “adult playground”.

The Tasting Room - 22 Vardon Avenue.

Monday and Tuesday, 9am to 7pm. Wednesday and Thursday, 9am to 8pm. Friday, 9am to 9pm. Saturday, 10am to 8pm. Sunday, 12pm to 6pm.

If the East End wants to take the mantle of the city's wine destination, they're doing a good job of it. The clever clogs at East End Cellars have adjusted their business to fit the small venue licence. After all, if they were going to sell the stuff, they should encourage people to try before they buy. It's a great place for an after-work meeting, cheeky lunch time tipple, or to start your night out. Not quite a late night venue, but it's always 5pm somewhere in the world, right? They feature a South Australian winery every week and have the winemaker in-store each Friday to talk you through the drop.

Ancient World - 116a Hindley St.

Friday, 5pm to 2am and Saturday, 8pm to 2am and various weeknights during Science Week from August 16

Finding this hidden gem off Hindley St is like being in on a special secret, so tucked away it is.

The atmosphere here is inclusive and it’s a case of the more, the merrier (as long as it's not more than 100 people, that is).

The bar and multi-arts venue, which is especially popular with the 25 to 35 crowd, officially opened in June after a successful test-run as a Fringe venue.

Run by nutrition scientist David Apps and sleep technician Brad Cameron (the guy behind the multi-genre festival Lost City), the venue has a drinks menu as locally sourced and ethical as possible. For example the vodka and whiskey from Tasmania and the Mexican cola Jarritos, because the guys refuse to sell Coca-Cola.

Here, you can have a dance to experimental/electronic music, write on the bathroom walls (it's encouraged, there are markers) chill outside in the courtyard or sit in the candlelit room next to the bar.

It's on a side street off Hindley St and to the left, but there's a map on its Facebook page if you need.