I just spent three weeks in and around Adelaide, and there's nowhere else on the planet I'd rather be right now. It's not just because Adelaide is a short drive from the Barossa Valley, Australia's gorgeous wine country. The city has plenty of its own natural beautya coastline, parks, a river, rolling hillsand a population of just over a million, but it still feels undiscovered.
On this trip I had a chance to eat at some of my favorite restaurants from past visitsincluding the Grange Restaurant, whose chef, Cheong Liew, is considered one of the early pioneers of fusion food (233 Victoria Square; 011-61-8-8217-2000)and I stumbled on some incredible finds: a specialty-foods store called Bottega Rotolo in the suburb of Norwood (7 Osmond Terrace, Norwood; 011-61-8-8362-0455), which stocks an excellent selection of artisanal cheeses and olive oils, and a terrific new bar in the city called The Archer Hotel (60 O'Connell St.; 011-61-8-8361-9300) in a beautifully refurbished old building.
I also did some exploring in the East and West Ends. The East End, around Rundle Street, used to be the hip part of the city, full of coffee shops, oyster bars, bookstores and music stores. The neighborhood also has one of the world's greatest bars, The Exeter Hotel (246 Rundle St.; 011-61-8-8223-2623), where you can get a glass of Coopers ale, made by the last family-owned brewery in Australia, on tap; it's sweet, fresh and crisp. The Exeter Hotel is a true local pub: You're just as likely to be drinking next to a barfly as the mayor of Adelaide. But the East End has been getting overpriced and the action has started shifting to the formerly seedy West End, home of a fabulous new wine bar called The Apothecary 1878 (118 Hindley St.; 011-61-8-8212-9099). The owners imported the entire interior of a London chemist shop: the huge cedar counter, a wall-size set of drawers that once held drugs, and Art Nouveaustyle glass-fronted cupboards. But instead of being surrounded by drug displays, you're surrounded by wine. I sat at the bar, drank wines by the glass, ate local olives, pistachios and cheeses and learned that sommelier Nick Stock and his brother Tim have their own wine label, Two Stocks, which offers luscious Riesling and Shiraz. You can easily pass hours there, chatting with locals and tasting world-class wines. That's what Adelaide is all about: sophisticated, but with a friendly, small-town feel.