Adelaide’s arts festival season has left the city with a lively vibe that has no intention of subsiding. Relatively unscathed from the madness of the past year, the city is buzzing with positivity. As recently as March, a remarkable number of restaurants, bars and hotels have opened, with more on the way.

The biggest change on the horizon is Market Square, a $400-million redevelopment of the ageing Central Market Arcade, adjacent to Adelaide Central Market. Scheduled to take three years to complete, the project will add a two-level retail and food precinct and a 35-storey tower with a hotel and garden terrace.

Celebrating its 155th anniversary, the iconic Adelaide Central Market will remain open and introduce new stalls. Chocolate legend Haigh’s is opening an outlet in June. Even the market’s garbage corner will be reimagined by Si Sea, a seafood tapas bar taking over this underused space in May. With woks aflame, chefs will cook in full view of diners in a dining area that sprawls outside to the street. Drinks will also be served, creating a piazza-style experience.

The Kangaroo Island Stall, run by Jane Harman, is drawing in more customers than ever. “We’re getting a lot of love and support from Australians who haven’t been able to travel in a year, so they’re coming here and buying something local from KI,” she said, while offering samples of sticky fig syrup. “The owners fought eight hours to save these fig trees from the bushfires.”

Food Tours Australia guide Mark Gleeson owns the Providore stall, which is stocked with sweet treats handmade by locals, including a Year 12 student who makes the honey crackles and a Portuguese woman who bakes the custard tarts. At other outlets we try samples of Latin American street food, Korean pancakes, dates and hot salami, meeting the owners. The 90-minute tour ends with tea and coffee at Lucia’s, which has been run by the same Italian family for 65 years.

With Chinatown at the other end of the block, the whole neighbourhood has become a diverse culinary hub. A quiet offshoot, Market Street is lined with cafes, restaurants and accommodation. Hotel Indigo Adelaide Markets, launched in March, combines all three and showcases the local talent. On the ground floor is Market & Meander, specialising in chargrilled barbecue, whether it’s charred Spencer Gulf prawns or smoked brisket.

On the rooftop is Merrymaker, serving raw and grilled seafood, such as gin-cured Port Lincoln sardines, kingfish, oysters and lobster rolls, and a huge selection of South Australian wine, beer and spirits. Topped with a great view of the surrounding city and Adelaide Hills in the distance, it gets busy, so book a table in advance.

The modern hotel rooms celebrate the city’s fun events, with walls covered in colourful posters from past years of Adelaide Festival. Suites have large balconies and mini-fridges, to store all that food and wine purchased on your trip. Another great feature is the pool, where the sun-loungers are well-shaded so you can linger for longer, and the water is heated for year-round swimming.

In the busier precinct of Rundle Street, Daughter In Law proudly promotes its “unauthentic” Indian dishes such as the sweet, sour and spicy Colonel Tso’s cauliflower, naan pizzas and fried chicken on waffles. Award-winning chef and restaurateur Jessi Singh and head chef Amar Singh opened the pretty pink venue in March and it’s been the talk of the town ever since. Boom Boom Room, a late-night cocktail lounge, is due to open upstairs soon. In the meantime, enjoy the self-service fridges of beer and wine, creative cocktails including an alcoholic mango lassi, or a special recommendation from sommelier Bhatia Dheeraj, formerly of Sydney’s Est.

Around the corner, East End Cellars is another top choice for wine lovers. While waiting for your meal in The Tasting Room, you can browse the 15,000 bottles for a matching McLaren Vale grenache, Clare Valley riesling or Barossa shiraz – or get expert advice from staff to choose an Austrian gewürztraminer or French red. Flights are also available to sample drops from emerging wineries. Be sure to start with the whipped blue cheese and honey on lavosh. This is a great place for an alfresco lunch or dinner before a show, people-watching from a window seat.

Fishbank, so named because the historic building housed Westpac for 100 years, is located within walking distance of Adelaide Oval, the Festival Centre, Art Gallery of SA, the casino and the small bar district. All of the sustainably sourced fish is delivered whole to the restaurant, and some of it is dry-aged to enhance the flavour. Highlights include a Malaysian fish-head curry, Goolwa pipis, beluga caviar and smoked Murray cod. Even the cocktails are fishy – try a Romp in the Sand (pisco, coconut, passionfruit, lime and seafoam) or Now You Sashimi (vodka, wasabi, yuzu, mandarin). Finish with a refreshing shot of the exclusive house-made, gin-based limoncello.

For the rest of 2021, visitors can come for Tasting Australia (April 30 to May 9), Adelaide Food Fringe (May 7-16), Adelaide Cabaret Festival (June 11-26) or Illuminate Adelaide (July 16 to August 1), a new winter event taking over the city streets, laneways and buildings with music, art, technology and light. In November, big concerts return with Kiss, Guy Sebastian and Guns N’ Roses — definitely three separate events! 

Take me there

Fly: Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia fly to Adelaide from the east coast’s Melbourne, Hobart, Sydney, Newcastle, Canberra, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Stay: On a quiet street in the heart of the city, Hotel Indigo Adelaide Markets has rooms starting at $250 per night.

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