Sit at the bar listening to a mix of old school Motown, Janet Jackson and Bon Jovi in Adelaide’s Peel Street restaurant and you’re transported into your own Brat Pack film. The stripped back warehouse interior design features a long bar of timber and concrete and old-school air-conditioning ducts criss-crossing the ceiling. Add a small picture of Al Pacino as Scarface stuck to the wall next to the cash register and casual but attentive bar staff and you’re back in the 1980s. Outside and across Peel Street itself, a hair salon sits in a blonde brick building finished in pebble-crete. I half expect Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez or John Cusack to wander in wearing a long surplus store overcoat.
It’s packed to the gunnels on a Thursday night and as I scan the happy, diverse crowd seated in bistro-style timber chairs, I wonder where Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger’s co-produced HBO series Vinyl went wrong? Sure it does offer a lovingly designed vision of the 1970s and all of its excesses but it’s all surface. Vinyl reminds me of the story in the movie Inception – a lovingly created dream on the verge of collapse. I’m thinking if Jagger and Scorsese truly wanted to get an understanding of how to imbue a room with the understated cool of another era they couldn’t have gone wrong visiting Peel Street.
The actual Peel Street and neighbouring Leigh Street are both part of a now lively Adelaide precinct offering visitors plenty of distractions day and night. Wander along during the day and the street is alive with cafes while at night there’s a laid-back energy emanating from numerous small bars and great little restaurants.
Back at Peel Street, the volume levels in the room are pretty high. Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl kicks in as waiters flit between tables with plates piled high with comfort food augmented with lashings of roughly chopped eye-catching greens such as coriander, basil and mint and the red of pomegranate seeds.
Yet as casual as this all sounds, Peel Street is one serious diner. The food might be pared back but chefs Jordan Theodoros and Martin Corcoran embrace South-east Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines to create a thoroughly modern-Australian menu.
Operating out of a constantly buzzing open kitchen behind the bar, Theodoros and Corcoran’s blackboard menu showcases local, fresh and seasonal produce. Chickpea battered garfish with quinoa, chickpeas, pomegranate, tahini and mamaharah (chilli, peas and coriander blended beautifully) offers a mash-up of pure, lip-schmacking natural flavours on the plate. Matched with a Ministry of Clouds grenache from the McLaren Vale it works a treat.
For sweets, a lime coconut meringue accompanied by roasted plum, coconut sorbet and ginger cream is a play on Eton Mess but lighter, obviously tangier, refreshing and straight up moreish. There are other sweet delights, cheeses and plenty of other savoury dishes to taste and share on the long blackboard menu covering one wall.
The wine list is pretty broad and while local wines are well represented, small winemakers from other states get a guernsey as do Spain, Italy, France and Germany. Importantly, it’s a pretty food friendly list and not too far off the wall when it comes to embracing smaller lesser-known winemakers.
And after an espresso to finish the night I am in my happy place and vow to try breakfast first thing the next morning. Yep – it’s that sort of place, you just want to return.