Adelaide is increasingly teeming with life in its off-shooting alleyways and laneways. Small bar legislation has brought vibrant life to otherwise quiet and dusty nooks and crannies in Adelaide’s suitably squared-off CBD. Looking for a place to drink is no longer purely a question of ‘if’, but rather ‘how?’. The novelty of intimate surrounds in small bars means that venues have to rely more heavily on décor, atmosphere and ambience than usual. Unfortunately, venues can easily end up typecasted as a result, and in worst-case scenarios end up coming across less as an immersive, creative getaway from the dull taps of pubs from years gone-by, and rather as a bad costume entrant in a 21st birthday party gone wrong.
Between all the try-hard Americana themed bars you can throw your Paypass at, there’s a few diamonds in the rough that justify their difficult to find entrances with their own unique twist of difficult to beat style and charm. With the debate swarming up about bringing the small bar aesthetic to Adelaide’s tired suburbs, now’s a good a time as any to refine your palette with the CBD’s best offerings over winter.
#1 Maybe Mae
By far the most difficult to find of all the entrants on this list is also one of the most charming. Maybe Mae’s downstairs bar entrance is easily missed — hidden away through a secret door in an unassuming wooden wall off Peel Street lays a sleek, schmooze-fueling cocktail bar. The constant raucous pace of crowd chatter and cocktail shakers dancing under soft-light compliment the bar’s rich and soulful music selection perfectly. The only thing that’ll impress you more than the effortless speakeasy vibe that comes with stumbling into this hidden bar is its cocktail selection, sure to send you stumbling out.
Speaking easily of speakeasies is a simple task with Bank Street Social. The prohibition era atmosphere is alive and well in this narrow yet large offering which, apart from its line to get inside, sits unassumingly next to a burrito joint on Bank Street. The sense of refined class that comes with choosing to drink at a bar which aims to capture the excitement and charm of the days of bootlegging is kick-started easily by the bar’s grandiose selection of spirits and cocktails. Why not sip a glass of Prohibition Liquor Co.’s bathtub cut and fully indulge yourself?
BRKLYN bar’s title gives it intention away immediately, with the upstairs studio-turned-bar alive and well with the theme of New York’s Brooklyn borough. Exposed brick walls surround the bar’s intimate setting and seating, with more than a booth or two waiting to be snagged for conversation overlooking Rundle Street. The bar is also complete with a live, streaming DJ studio where Adelaide electro-institution Soundpond broadcasts from.
Ancient World takes the sleek efforts of our list’s previous entrants and flips them on their head in a truly engaging dive-bar atmosphere. Ancient World is host to a wide, varying range of live music and DJ sets, and boasts freedom of expression in both its rug-laden décor and its open-minded punters. Locating Ancient World is second in difficulty to Maybe Mae, sitting quietly down the back of an alleyway behind a nightclub, but once you’re inside, you’ll re-acquaint yourself with getting lost a few more times while navigating the bar’s maze-like use of unconventional space.
Ever wish you weren’t in the CBD, but rather at the beach? But not sitting on the beach, sitting in a tropical cabana, perhaps while drinking a mojito? Superfish will take you there. An offering from the Adelaide nightlife juggernauts behind Royal Croquet Club and Fat Controller, Superfish shows what a dedicated attention to detail in theme can do for in-venue immersion, all while carrying the mid-20s “eat, but then get loud” attitude politely and effectively.
Image source: Maybe Mae, Bank Street Social, BRKLYN, Adelaide Now, Superfish.