Adelaide reportedly boasts the highest number of restaurants per head of any Australian city. Liana Cafolla checks out an area where the variety is tantalising 

You could easily miss Adelaide when visiting Australia. Most people do. International visitors put it only seventh on their list of must-see places in Australia, after high-scoring destinations like Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Queensland. As Peter Portway of the South Australian Tourist Commission says: “We don’t have an opera house; we don’t have a big rock.”

It’s a small city – the centre measures a mere 2.59km and the population barely tops a million.

But there is at least one very good reason to pay Adelaide a visit: it’s a food and wine lover’s delight.  There are around 750 restaurants here, giving Adelaide reputedly the highest number of restaurants per head of any city in Australia, and many of them source their produce from their own backyard. Although the population is not very big, it includes more than 150 different nationalities, and the downtown area has a definite multi-ethnic vibe that’s evident in the array of cuisines available from all over the world. The homegrown approach to food and wine production coupled with the city’s laid-back character and no-fuss attitude means eating out here is very affordable.

And because the city’s hinterlands are bubbling over with some of the country’s oldest and best-known wine regions, a stay in Adelaide guarantees a very satisfying choice and quality of food and wine.

The reason for all this abundance in one place is not down to chance. When Colonel William Light was sent over by the British to found a capital in the new state, he was given instructions to make sure that his choice had, among other considerations, “a considerable tract of fertile land immediately adjoining” and “an abundant supply of fresh water”.

Light chose well, and today’s residents have made good use of their excellent natural resources: a Mediterranean-style climate of hot summers and mild winters, abundant fresh water, and rich, fertile farmland. The country’s first agricultural college opened in Adelaide in 1885, and its economy was built on what, according to French immigrant and long-time Adelaide resident and tour guide Yvonne Vickers says are the three Ws: “wool, wheat and wine”.

Set inland from the Southern Ocean in a sheltered spot on the Gulf St Vincent, Light designed Adelaide as a square mile grid of streets running in parallel lines from north to south and from east to west, a layout that makes it easy to explore on foot and without getting lost. There is a square in each quadrant, and a fifth one, Victoria Square, in the centre. It’s around here, at the Central Market and Gouger Street, that you can find the best variety of food and restaurants.

Visit in the morning or on a weekday afternoon, and you may see little to encourage you to return for a meal. But come back on a Friday or Saturday night, and you will find the area buzzing. The bland, shuttered shop fronts open up to display a mouth-watering selection of restaurants. The pavements outside are covered in tables, chairs and umbrellas to cater for the weekend overflow when Adelaide’s young, old, trendy and not so trendy head out to eat.

For a mouth-watering overview of what’s available in the restaurants of Gouger Street, (and a novel alternative to pre-dinner hors d’oeuvres), visit the Central Market.

Outwardly a rather grubby and uninviting building, inside the covered market – the largest covered food market in the country, and the longest-running – is spacious and airy. The stallholders are happy to give free tastings of their wares and the choice is mouthwatering. There’s stall upon stall of beautifully presented, fresh local produce of every variety: meat, fish, cheeses, delicatessens, breads, pastries, coffee, tea, chocolate, preserves, wines, organic fruit and vegetables, and others selling national specialities from Russia, Greece, Italy and throughout Asia.

Adelaide boasts several streets that are dedicated to restaurants, but for its variety of cuisines, Gouger Street is the best. At the last count, there were 48 restaurants in this street alone. Here are some of the most popular ones:

Gaucho’s Argentinian Restaurant


Packed on weekends, Gaucho’s attracts businessmen by day and a well-heeled crowd who like a lively atmosphere at night. It’s Argentinian cuisine, so it’s meat, meat and more meat. The most popular items on the menu here are fillet steak, rump steak or T-bone steaks. Big meat eaters can opt for the charcoal grilled scotch fillet steak or the Parrillader Mixta Pampera (mixed grill).  Licenced, but you can bring your own wine.

Where: 91 Gouger Street tel 61 8 8231 2299. Open for lunch and dinner.

Gouger Café

Right across the road from Gaucho’s, the Gouger Café is big, airy, bright and modern. Good for a no-fuss relaxed, informal meal, and for non-meat eaters. Just about every kind of fish is on the menu here, including whiting, snapper, perch, tuna, scallops, and a mixed fish platter. Specials include Tasmanian grilled salmon, grilled baby barramundi, King George whiting and blackened swordfish, and it has a wine list.

Where: 98-100 Gouger Street tel 61 8 8231 2320. Open Mon-Fri from 1130-1500 and 1700-2200 ; Sat from 1700-late.

Great River Korean Restaurant

Modern Korean food from a self-service, cook your own barbeque buffet. The restaurant is bright, and spacious with large tables and a café-like atmosphere that’s popular with all age groups, especially young people and families. The buffet draws very excited crowds. All-you-can-eat is A$20 (US$14.76) on weekdays, and A$22 (US$16.24) on weekends. Wine licence or BYO.

Where: 103 Gouger Street tel 61 8 8221 6866. Open daily from 1700-2300.

La Guillotin

Upmarket, classical French restaurant with a menu that includes French favourites bouillabaisse, soupe a l’oignon, blanquette de veau, and also filet de kangourou (’roo to you). Dark wood, beamed ceilings and tiled floor create a warm, intimate, old-world French atmosphere. There’s also a covered garden area with seating at the back. Extensive wine list of French and local wines. Higher price range.

Where: 125 Gouger Street tel 61 8 8212 2536. Open Thurs-Fri from noon onwards and Tues-Sat from 1745.



The perfect place for breakfast, or after-dinner desserts and coffee, Cibo’s is a hard to miss, bright red Italian bar style café, with a mouth-watering selection of Italian cakes and pastries, and a wide choice of filled focaccias, panini, and piadine, a speciality of Romagna in Italy. Their Italian-style ice-cream selection is made of all natural ingredients. Eat in or take away.

Where: 41 Gouger Street tel 61 8 8410 0448. Open Mon-Thurs from 0700-2330 and Fri-Sat from 0700-late.

Star of Siam

A bistro style Thai restaurants serving traditional Thai food, with specialities including crispy snapper in a mildly spicy sauce, Sea Star (mixed seafood and chicken dumplings), and Barramundi with fresh mango. Very friendly and efficient service and a great atmosphere.This is one of the most popular restaurants on Gouger Street. It’s packed to the gills on weekends, so reservations are recommended.

Where: 67 Gouger Street tel 61 8 8410 0448. Open Mon-Fri from noon-1430 and 1730-2230; Sat-Sun from 1730-2230.

Mongkok Chinese Restaurant

This informal, Hongkong-owned restaurant specializes in yum cha, which is served all day. The restaurant is spacious and airy, and this makes it surprisingly quiet even when it’s full of diners. The establishment carries a wine licence.

Where: 81-83 Gouger Street tel 61 8 8231 3527. Open daily from 1000-1500 and from 1700-2230.

Lime & Lemon


Another Thai restaurant on the next corner. It has simple, café-style tables with warm orange walls, and plenty of buzz. More tables outside. The menu includes Tom Yum soup, deep-fried squid, char grilled octopus, and wok-fried dishes based on a choice of seafood, tofu, beef, chicken, kangaroo or crocodile.

Where: 89 Gouger Street tel 61 8 8231 8876. Open Mon-Fri from noon-1500 and evenings.

Ying Chow

Noisy, but serving good food at very reasonable prices, Ying Chow is frequented by local chefs in the know, the Ying Chow is known for its excellent duck dishes and Northern Chinese cuisine. Order from the menu by number, and don’t expect a lot from the décor.  Licensed or BYO. Bookings are essential.

Where: 114 Gouger Street tel 61 8 8211 7998. Open daily from 1700-0100.

A Taste of Spice

Traditional Malaysian cuisine in spacious restaurant.  Favourites are tofu dishes, chilli mud crabs and fish curries. Indoor and outdoor seating. Wine licence or bring your own.

Where: 57 Gouger Street tel 61 8 8231 46 48. Open Mon-Fri from noon-1400 and 1800-2200. Sat-Sun from 1800-2200.