Travel Story The city of churches, or the city of coffee shops?

Looking back at  InterContinental Adelaide over the River Torrens
Photo of Jan Bromilow

You'll still find plenty of spires on a visit to Adelaide, but there's also a sense of vibrancy, not to mention plenty of good things to eat and drink.

“Adelaide is no longer the city of churches but is now the city of coffee shops, ” says InterContinental Adelaide hotel’s chef, Tony Hart, as we stroll to the Adelaide Central Market. 

My husband Dion and I are in town for just a weekend and the good folk at the InterContinental Adelaide have organised an Insider Experience for us to see as much of the city as possible. 

InterContinental Hotels’ Insider Experiences are offered worldwide. Concierge teams, using their local knowledge, offer recommendations to guests to help them discover places they may otherwise have missed. 

Chief concierge Siddhartha Kaul and the team at InterContinental Adelaide recommend what they have personally experienced. From housekeeping and engineering staff right up to management, everyone has input. Each Insider Experience is provided or suggested only if it has been experienced by a member of the hotel staff within the past three months. 

Our first stop is the newly revamped Adelaide Oval. We are both sports fans so this is high on our wish list. The oval is a short walk from the hotel across the River Torrens, littered with kayakers and fishermen. Once we arrive, we join a guided tour of the sprawling and impressive new facility, with its function rooms, state-of-the-art media rooms, changing rooms and bars. 

Downstairs we linger over the collection of the Bradman family’s personal memorabilia before heading for dinner at the Hill of Grace Restaurant in the oval’s Audi Stadium Club. Here, overlooking the wicket — no play today, unfortunately —  we enjoy an indulgent degustation meal, matched with award-winning Henschke wines. Each course is an individual plated work of art that sets the tastebuds singing and the wait staff are all knowledgeable, friendly and informative, making it a meal we will long remember. 

The next day we are off to the Art Gallery of South Australia, also a short walk away. I am getting to like this city more and more. 

After this, we head to the hotel along the vibrant Rundle Street Mall. Back in the hotel’s reception, we meet up with executive chef Tony Hart, for our trip to the Adelaide Central Market to buy produce that he will cook with us on our return. Along the way, he points out buildings of interest as he guides us down the many alleyways bursting with outdoor cafes and pop-up coffee shops.

The market has been Adelaide’s principal food hub for more than 140 years and houses more than 80 stalls. The market is a colourful array of lanes bulging with colourful produce, from glistening green avocados the size of grapefruits and mysterious herbs to cheese, bread, meat and seafood. 

We stop to sample some cheese and other tasty morsels before weaving our way to the seafood section, where Tony asks if we have ever shucked oysters — he has decided they will form the basis of our cooking lesson. 

Back in the hotel’s kitchen, with our bags of market produce Tony shows us how to prepare the oysters in a variety of ways. He smokes some in a strange contraption, dribbles lemon myrtle vinegar on others and garnishes a few with the delicate pink pearls of finger lime. He then whips up a simple dish of mussels in white wine for our lunch, which we take upstairs in the Atrium Lounge. Here we are also to experience the hotel’s afternoon high coffee, a modern twist on the classic high tea. 

We begin with a creamy, velvety smooth espresso martini, designed in-house and accompanied by an appetising display of miniature sweet creations for us to nibble. Next, we sample the cafe freddo — a sort of deconstructed coffee, which each guest can mix and adjust to their own taste. 

We while away the afternoon with a walk down the busy Hindley Street before going back to relax in the sun and soak up the city’s sights from the hotel’s terrace. The skyline is dotted with cranes, busy creating new buildings. Meanwhile, buses and trams plough along the wide streets and cars move freely without the usual city congestion as people scurry between the railway station, the Adelaide Festival Centre, casino and convention centre. 

Our evening dining is at the hotel’s Japanese restaurant, Shiki, a long-time favourite with locals. A sign in the lift assures us that “for more authentic Japanese cuisine you will need your passport”, and we enjoy the theatre of Japanese culinary mastery with the chefs slicing, tossing and flipping their ingredients and sending flames flying towards the ceiling before they hand over the completed dishes. 

On our final day we head on a trip to the Barossa Valley. We are picked up by friendly driver John, of Tour Barossa, who provides us with an informative and amusing commentary throughout the day. 

The Barossa is a 40-minute drive out of the city and the journey gives us the opportunity to glimpse some of the countryside. 

Our first stop is Hentley Farm Wines where the lovely Rachel takes us step by step through a selection of its wines. This relatively small winery is best known for its red wines, called The Beauty and The Beast. Opinion in our group is divided — two prefer one and two the other. 

Next is the popular cellar door of Rockford Wines, where staff member Lindy tells us the history of the region while taking us through a tasting of a selection of its wines.

Our final stop of the day is Charles Melton Wines, where the man himself joins us for lunch. Seated in the outdoor restaurant, we munch our way through quiches made with melt-in-the mouth pastry while sampling his range of reds. 

For our final night we dine in the hotel’s Riverside restaurant overlooking the river and the Adelaide Oval. Here local produce is cleverly crafted into delicious dishes served in a relaxed but elegant environment. 

Adelaide is not what I expected — there is such a vibrancy and buzz about the place. The city’s well-thought-out design, the striking architecture of the old and new buildings, and the amazing local produce make it a most livable place — with the InterContinental Adelaide situated right at its beating heart.

Jan Bromilow was a guest of the InterContinental Adelaide.

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