Monday 19 January 2009

The Unpublished 3: Bar Adelaide

This month's example of a travel article that I've never been able to place takes us to the South Australian capital, Adelaide.

I was there for a week of travel writing which inexplicably involved alcohol at every step - a Barossa winery tour, a brewery tour, a day spent in Port Adelaide's pubs - so naturally I thought I should finish it off with a round-up of the city's best bars...

Fad Bar
30 Waymouth Street
(08) 8410 0987

There's nothing more depressing than postwar bank building architecture - cheap-looking institutional aluminium and glass frontage, with grid-like plaster squares on the ceiling. You can't do much with this, so Fad Bar doesn't even try.

Instead, it turns the decayed commercial tackiness to its advantage, with its scuffed walls repainted burnt orange, the floor littered with plush old '70s sofas, and the space decorated with gigantic, riotous pieces of pop art in enormous gilt frames.

There's little glitz here, but a lot of mellowness, as the laidback, dressed-down crowd sits around in the evening and recounts the day's battles over a beer.

At the back there's a tiny stage hosting live progressive rock most nights, and upstairs there's a funky art gallery. Across the street there's a real live bank, no doubt wondering if it could ever be as cool as its older brother when it retires.

The Apothecary 1878
118 Hindley Street
(08) 8212 9099

Alcoholic toasts invariably invoke the drinkers' health, so why not place a bar in a former pharmacy? Or apothecary, a grander word that suits the spectacular heritage surrounds of this classy drinking hole in the nightclub precinct.

The bar, a long dark timber counter, sits in front of shelving bathed in a subdued golden light, containing bottles of the barman’s modern medicine. It's faced on the other side of the room by vintage cabinets lined with old bottles and medical texts, and drawers labelled 'Sponge Bags', 'Elastic Stockings' and 'Trusses'.

A fanned mosaic floor lies beneath a magnificent chandelier, and there's a decent menu of tapas dishes stretching from chorizo to Persian feta. The drinks list includes a good range of cocktails, wines from Europe and Australia, and an array of beers from across the world. It's an elegant, grown-up space in which to sip a civilised drop.

Elysium Lounge
182 Hindley Street
(08) 8212 9888

What genius had the idea of combining 16 year old whisky, orange bitters, dark chocolate liqueur, tokay and orange zest in a single cocktail?

Whoever it was, I tip my hat to the Elysium Bar for its inspired (and lengthy) cocktail menu, backed up by the vast variety of alcoholic substances crowded along the shelves behind the compact bar of this west end cocktail joint.

Lined by blood-red banquettes and lit by wavy organic-looking lamps, this venue has plenty of space down the middle for dancing to the DJs playing old school and house on weekends. Earlier in the week, it's an ambient place to meet friends for a drink.

On Friday nights the happy hour runs from five to nine pm, and you’ll be rubbing shoulders with a happy post-work crowd of twenty to thirtysomethings. If you're not in the mood for an adventurous cocktail, there's a small but good range of local wines.

193 Victoria Square
(08) 8212 5661

How mellow is this? Moulded white and orange chairs straight out of a 1960s science fiction movie sit around circular tables with decorative tops, in a boxy white space decorated with swathes of the brightest red. Relaxed music flows out of the speakers while chilled-out patrons relax on the scarlet banquettes or put their feet up on a pouffe.

Dragonfly is also an art gallery with changing exhibitions of a quirky nature on its walls, so there's something to look at while you sip. The bar opens from lunchtime during the working week, and serves a range of sharing dishes, along with mains, desserts and a varied selection of wine and cocktails.

As the venue is about as central as you can get, overlooking Victoria Square, it attracts office workers during the days and a casual young crowd at nights. Oh, and the coffee is both organic and fairtrade.

95 Gouger Street
(08) 8231 6023

This flash bar on the Gouger Street restaurant strip is a super-glam cocktail temple, boasting a layout by the designer of Melbourne's classy Long Room.

It's dominated by geometric lines of glass and steel, which are softened by moody lighting and gauzy curtains which divide the edge of the venue into a series of sexy lounge spaces. The centre of Escobar is dominated by a long illuminated table, glowing golden from within, and surrounded by bright young things sipping cocktails.

Among the options in the diverse wine list, the standout is Pablo's Poison, a cognac-based cocktail with coffee syrup and a hint of absinthe. In its centre, a disc of ice containing frozen star anise slowly thaws, adding extra aroma.

Because Escobar is strategically located next to the popular Gaucho's Argentinian Restaurant and the other eateries of the strip, the bar buzzes in the evening with people either on their way to or from dinner. Escobar is a smooth CBD aperitif.

Tim Richards travelled courtesy of Great Southern Railway and the South Australian Tourism Commission. Note: As this article was researched in 2007, the author takes no responsibility for readers' reliance on the information within. Always check on the current cocktail situation before travelling to Adelaide.

The Unpublished is a random series of my never-published travel articles. For previous instalments, click on the The Unpublished Topic tag below, then scroll down.

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