A trip to Adelaide uncovers hidden, delicious delights, writes Alexia Santamaria
I'm ashamed to admit that before the Tasting Australia Festival, my knowledge of Adelaide's food scene was limited.
Despite awareness of South Australia's excellent wine regions and abundance of luscious produce, I was still guilty of seeing Sydney and Melbourne as the go-to places for world-class cuisine in Australia. But after six days of embarrassingly excessive consumption, I can safely say I'm an Adelaide convert.
Tasting Australia is an annual celebration of South Australia's food and drink. Over 10 days, the 2019 festival hosted 100 events, meals and tasting classes both in Adelaide itself and around South Australia. There are several talented people behind this fantastic event; perhaps the best known is Jock Zonfrillo, owner and head chef at Restaurant Orana, (named Australia's best restaurant in the Good Food Guide awards 2019) - and one of the new Masterchef Australia judges.
Though a visit to Orana (I was lucky enough to experience its 17-course degustation focused on Australian indigenous food - it definitely deserves the awards) would make you think Zonfrillo might curate an exclusively high-end festival, one of the things I loved the most about Tasting Australia was its accessibility.
My apartment, the Adina Adelaide Treasury, was on Victoria Square - festival central - and every night I meandered back there through live music, delicious smells, lights and sounds of all sorts of people having a great time. Entry to the square was free, and the street food very affordable. American barbecue with its smoky aroma nestled in next to Instagram-worthy desserts from Shibui dessert bar; Modern Taiwainese cosied up to Sri Lankan curries and - perhaps my favourite - mouthwatering prawn tacos from La Popular Taqueria, with tortillas made fresh on site.
Of course there were high-end experiences too and I loved my indulgent lunch at Sunset Food and Wine on Kangaroo Island, with a fascinating tasting at the award-winning Kangaroo Island Gin distillery afterwards. The "Glasshouse dinner", cooked by some of Australia's finest chefs - including David Thompson from Long Chim and Fico's Federica Andrissani (as well as some local Adelaide legends) - was amazing too. But there was something for everyone in the programme, including fun events where top chefs cooked everyday crowd favourites like pizza and schnitzel.
Even outside of the festival, Adelaide is a wonderful place to eat, from the giddy culinary heights of Orana to hearty cheap eats in Chinatown. One of my highlights was exploring the Adelaide Central market with Food Tours Australia. An iconic foodie destination since 1869, it's everything you want: the banter, the irresistible smells of freshly cooked pasta, freshly baked bread, and cheese and charcuterie you'd sell your grandmother for. Two of my favourites were a Turkish delight stand with jewel-like sweet treats I'd never seen before and the fascinating Something Wild which specialises in indigenous Australian ingredients. My guide Cheryl had organised a taster platter of venison salami, finger limes, karkalla and muntries. I'm still dreaming about the finger limes and their little caviar-like pearls bursting with fresh citrus flavour - and how perfect they would be in my Friday night GnT.
Many an ex-Australian Masterchef contestant has set up shop in Adelaide too - Po Ling Yeow has Jamface in the market itself, Jessie Spiby has My Grandma Ben, Callum Hann has Sprout Cooking School and Andre Ursini has Andre's Cucina.
And then, of course, there's the wine - perhaps what Adelaide is best known for. Between the four regions of The Barossa, Clare Valley, Fleurieu Peninsula and Adelaide Hills there is plenty to choose from. I only had time to visit Adelaide Hills, and can highly recommend the wares of Golding Wines and Barristers Block and recent opening, Lot 100, a very cool option with a brewery and distillery on site.
The scales and my clothes probably disagree, but I felt I only scratched the surface of all the great food and wine in this charming, easy-to-navigate city - and the surrounding region. Book Tasting Australia 2020 into your travel diary - but maybe eat salad for a week before you go.
Air New Zealand has four non stop flights a week from Auckland to Adelaide.
Tasting Australia: 27 March – 5 April 2020
Tasting Australia is South Australia's premier eating and drinking festival, with international and national talent coming together to showcase the best of the region.
Long lunches, exclusive dinners, farm tours, tastings, and masterclasses, Tasting Australia has more than 120 events, to suit all tastes and wallets.
Event Highlights for 2020 include:
The world's best, Michelin-starred and country's hottest chefs converged to create one-off menus and exclusive dining experiences.
In the heart of the city, the free festival hub is the perfect place to enjoy Tasting Australia's best talent, from chefs and winemakers to producers and products.
East End Cellars Masterclass
Top up your drinks knowledge, glass by glass. Guests can enjoy some theatrics as they told the stories behind every drop.