More than 150 years later, Adelaide Central Market has more than 70 traders under one roof, and it bills itself as a “thriving hub of food and culture”, encapsulating a key aspect of the city’s appeal as a flourishing culinary destination and arts hub.
The capital of South Australia has a population of just over 1.3 million, and has been nicknamed the “20-minute city” with everything reachable within that amount of time.
While it can be overlooked in favour of higher-profile destinations Down Under, having visited Perth and Sydney, I’d say that it more than holds its own, a compact, manageable location offering both relaxed metropolitan elegance and jaw-dropping chances to see native wildlife in its natural habitat. And did I mention the food?
We arrive in the city via Qatar Airways from Hamad International Airport, Doha. Having set off in Edinburgh – the airline serves more than 160 destinations and has been helping people get home during the current pandemic – the journey takes place in true VIP style.
Its business class has been voted the world’s best, including direct access to the aisle from every seat, a delicious entire-flight menu, and slippers and sleeper suits from The White Company. I’m barely jetlagged in either direction.
Our accommodation, The Mayfair Hotel in the city’s central business district, continues the luxurious experience. Located in the heritage-listed Colonial Mutual Life building, it opened in 2015 and is just opposite Rundle Mall, Australia’s first pedestrian mall, which passes my stringent “potter around happily with regular chances to stop for coffee” test.
Located in a prime, all-too-tempting location is Haigh’s Chocolates, Australia’s oldest family-owned chocolate-maker, which we’re advised is a great place to buy souvenirs to take home. Or rather, pretend that we didn’t have time to buy presents, and eat the chocolates ourselves, I wonder.
We head to see Adelaide Central Market for ourselves, with a tour courtesy of Mark Gleeson, who has 30 years’ experience as a chef and 20 as a stallholder. Wandering through the Technicolor aisles of fresh produce, we sample everything from Algerian cuisine at Le Souk to the delicious wares of the Smelly Cheese Shop, with the latter’s staff so devoted that many apparently spend their holidays working alongside suppliers.
The next stop is Cleland Wildlife Park, nestled in the natural bushland setting of Cleland Conservation Park. We wander among and feed kangaroos, and then have our picture taken holding a rucksack-sized koala with the excellent name of Edmond. I later find out he’s an Aussie icon and has been held by the likes of Mariah Carey and Ronnie Wood (not at the same time).
The clock then strikes wine o’clock and we head off to Penfolds Magill Estate, 15 minutes from the city centre, but which feels pleasantly a million miles away from civilisation.
As we sit looking out over one of the world’s few urban single vineyards, partaking of charcuterie and various wine samples, we learn more about the history of the business, started in 1844 when Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold, wife Mary and daughter Georgina arrived in Australia with French vine cuttings. An extensive tour includes the cellar where the famous Penfolds Grange is made.
Additionally, about 20 minutes from the city centre, is luxury lodge Sequoia, which opens in September.
The next day sees us set off for Kangaroo Island, a short flight away. Our excellent guide, Nikki of Kangaroo Island Odysseys, drives us around the island, known locally as KI. It has a spectacular 300-mile coastline, some of which bears a striking resemblance to the west coast of Scotland.
Although the island was affected by bush fires in January, over half was completely unharmed, and areas that were are said to be regenerating very well.
We see the remarkable sight of vast fields of grazing, occasionally hopping ’roos, countless bleary-eyed, swaying koalas nestled in tree branches, and even black swans silently gliding through the water. Nikki also seems to be able to magically make creatures appear almost on cue, with a koala even walking across the grass right in front of us to our amazement.
One of the most memorable parts of the whole trip for me is Seal Bay Conservation Park, the only place in the world where you can enter a wild colony of about 1,000 Australian sea lions. They are one of the rarest seal species in the world and most of the ones we see are snoozing peacefully on the pristine white sand as the waves crash behind them.
The island also has a reputation for producing some of Australia’s finest gourmet foods, including Ligurian honey, and we wash down dinner with a honey wheat ale from local microbrewery the Drunken Drone Brewery.
After an overnight stay at a seafront hotel we have time to pop into craft distillery Kangaroo Island Spirits, and we sample some of its wares, which are made using native Australian botanicals.
It’s sadly time to return to the mainland, where we manage to squeeze in many, many more calories at a couple of the city’s hotspots.
These include a seemingly endless supply of tapas-style dishes at the glamorous Madame Hanoi, which offers a hybrid of French and Vietnamese cuisine, and 2KW, which has a rooftop terrace and describes itself as the type of place “where time slows down, burdens are lifted and focus shifts to what’s really important – great food and serious booze”.
I’d more than happily make a boomerang-style return once normality returns.
A round trip from Edinburgh to Adelaide with Qatar Airways currently starts at £735. To book, please see here. For more information on the trip, visit www.southaustralia.com, www.mayfairhotel.com.au, www.clelandwildlifepark.sa.gov.au, and www.ecocaddy.com.au/experiences.
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