How the city’s Peel and Leigh streets found the road to re­demp­tion

Australian Traveller - - Contents -

For a ’hood to be prop­erly hip it needs some down-at-heel history. Hell’s Kitchen was a mi­grant slum. Soho was Lon­don’s cap­i­tal of vice. Fitzroy was where Mel­bourne ware­housed its work­ing class. The greater the ne­glect, it seems, the more glit­ter­ing the re­demp­tion. Ade­laide’s new in­ner-city haven of hip­s­ter­dom has no such gritty her­itage. In­deed, if it suf­fered at all, it was from decades of in­dif­fer­ence and too much at­ten­tion from 1980s ar­chi­tects. Which makes its sud­den emer­gence all the more re­mark­able. Peel Street and Leigh Street are front and cen­tre in a quar­ter of cool that is not quite four years old. They’re a pair of par­al­lel and in­ter­con­nected lanes with ex­tended kin in An­ster Street and, most re­cently, in the very unlov­able Topham Mall (more on this later). Be­fore 2012, the chain of lanes ba­si­cally served to fun­nel foot traf­fic 300 me­tres from Way­mouth Street (a canyon of suits and fine din­ing) to Hind­ley Street (home to clubs and pubs that have been keep­ing Ade­laide’s con­stab­u­lary busy for more than 130 years). Leigh Street was hand­some if un­der­utilised, but the other con­duits had noth­ing to com­mend them – a few brick ed­i­fices, a pe­riod ware­house or two and a se­ries of ’80s build­ings in var­i­ous shades of beige. But crit­i­cally, like Mel­bourne’s cel­e­brated rab­bit war­rens, they were – and are – in­ti­mate and per­fectly cen­tral. The sud­den rein­ven­tion is owing to some­thing quite sim­ple. It’s called the ‘Small Venue Li­cence’ and is to be found hang­ing in ev­ery one of a score of colour­ful hip­ster nooks. Ud­aberri ( ud­ is a mustdo Leigh Street bar, not just for its mini­con­verted ware­house vibe, its fine tapas or col­lec­tion of ‘Best Bar’ awards, but be­cause the own­ers spent 40 grand of their own

money try­ing to fight ob­struc­tive li­cens­ing laws. When the State At­tor­ney-Gen­eral John Rau heard their woes over a beer at the bar, he de­cided a nim­ble small bar li­cence was needed pre­cisely so peo­ple with big dreams and lim­ited bud­gets could give Ade­laide some fresh en­ergy. The first new li­cence was granted in 2013, lim­it­ing hold­ers to serv­ing no more than 120 peo­ple. With some gen­er­ous leas­ing ar­range­ments and the net­work­ing savvy of a can-do tribe called ‘Re­new Ade­laide’, it was sud­denly on for the young and hip. Bars are still the en­gine be­neath this ’hood, revving the dis­trict af­ter 5pm, es­pe­cially on week­ends and ex­traspe­cially when a game is play­ing at the city’s new epi­cen­tre, the Ade­laide Oval. At the Leigh–Peel nexus, the bars are so close that you can hop­scotch be­tween the lot. There’s Clever Lit­tle Tai­lor ( clev­er­lit­tle­tai­ with its ex­posed stone and ex­otic liquors. Maybe Mae ( hello@maybe­ is un­der­ground op­u­lence with a speakeasy vibe, while Casablabla ( is the in­verse, with Latin-dance high­jinx and a sassy beer gar­den. Colour­ful te­quila good­ness can be had at Chi­huahua ( chi­, and vodka lu­nacy such as the Nutella vodka mar­tini is en­cour­aged at BarBushka ( au). Head south to An­ster Street and you’ll find Proof ( face­ with its gor­geous am­bi­ence and fond­ness for gin; it also takes or­ders for di­ges­tifs through a laneway hatch, a nod to Euro­pean tra­di­tions we should never have sur­ren­dered. ‘Restau­rant’ or ‘bar’ soon be­comes a bit of a moot point (ev­ery­one goes in for a bit of both), but rest as­sured you won’t go hun­gry. Bread & Bone ( face­­bone) is a name that in­vokes the ‘to-die-for’ groan, es­pe­cially if you try the soft-shell crab burger. La-Moka (0406 729 164) is a diner that serves its sim­ple dishes on tin plates. Con­versely, Peel St ( looks ca­sual but packs some top-chef mus­cle. Fam­ily-owned Kaf­fana ( kaf­ is Ser­bian through and through, with mum preparing Balkan burg­ers be­hind a door hung with icons; if you have the for­ti­tude, try one of their myr­iad flavours of slivovitz – a po­tent fruit brandy that one sculls while go­ing eye-to-eye and call­ing out ‘Ziveli!’ Dur­ing the day, the dis­trict is no less sassy, thanks to suits and stu­dents who rel­ish it as much as the hip­sters. Cof­fee is

In guerilla fash­ion, its va­cant shop-spa­ces were stormed by bright young en­trepreneurs.

served in Cof­feeBranch ( cof­ where the world’s finest beans are given due dili­gence. Day-time shop­pers can also avail them­selves of Ade­laide’s old­est Comics Shop ( comic­, largest Maps Shop ( map­ and lug­gage from the very beau­ti­ful Leigh Street Lug­gage ( leighst lug­ The lat­ter was es­tab­lished in 1980 by Julie Barnes, an ex-Ansett hostie who’s so loved by cus­tomers that they leave air­line mem­o­ra­bilia with her. Much of it adorns her shop, con­trast­ing per­fectly with her care­fully cho­sen mer­chan­dise. And so we cross Cur­rie Street into Topham Mall. This ex­am­ple of 1980s ur­ban beast­li­ness was jammed be­neath a UPark and has served to fun­nel more wind than peo­ple ever since. That was un­til mid-2015, when, al­most in guerilla fash­ion, its va­cant shop-spa­ces were stormed by bright young en­trepreneurs. To­day, you’ll see that its glass cu­bi­cles are lit and lively with in­dus­tri­ous folk ded­i­cated to the ap­pre­ci­a­tion of ar­ti­san qual­ity. Booknook & Bean (Shop 18, face­ booknookand­bean) serves lo­cally roasted de Groot cof­fee and sells sec­ond-hand books for what­ever you think they’re worth (the funds be­come mi­cro-loans for sea­weed farm­ers in In­done­sia); the Beigelry (Shop 19) hand­crafts bagels ac­cord­ing to the ‘338’ code of 1900s New York crafts­men; lo­cal de­sign­ers of­fer a ‘minia­ture be­spoke IKEA’ at Trans­form (Shop 11); and ar­ti­san choco­lates look lush in the win­dow of The Coco Stop (Shop 14, face­­co­costop). The jewel in the crown is at Topham’s en­trance – no less than a Por­tuguese restau­rant and the city’s first mi­cro-brew­ery pressed into an im­prob­a­ble ur­ban cranny. The Lady Burra Brew­house ( la­dy­burra brew­ mixes the shiny in­dus­try of brew­ing with a fiery space of Ibe­rian flavour. Try the chip-tast­ing pad­dle (yes, chip tast­ing), try Rosa’s chorizo, try the beer and maple syrup ‘brew­tail’. In fact, try ev­ery­thing. Be­cause Topham Mall and the Leigh and Peel Street re­ju­ve­na­tion is a tri­umph of wise heads, young hearts and sen­si­ble pol­icy making. Or as Julie Barnes of Leigh St Lug­gage said: “I’ve been here for 35 years and it’s really won­der­ful what’s hap­pened. And when you look at Topham Mall, it just goes to show that noth­ing’s be­yond re­demp­tion!”

CLOCK­WISE FROM ABOVE: La-Moka for a sim­ple din­ner served on a tin plate · La-Moka does a great mocha, too · The speakeasy-style Proof bar · Casablabla’s dishes are great for shar­ing.

CLOCK­WISE FROM ABOVE: Fine din­ing (and cof­fee) at Peel St restau­rant · Char­cu­terie at Clever Lit­tle Tai­lor · One of Proof bar’s creations · The so­phis­ti­cated Clever Lit­tle Tai­lor.

LEFT AND BE­LOW: Cof­fee Branch: a small venue with big flavours · Peel Street’s Clever Lit­tle Tai­lor is the city’s favourite cock­tail bar, serv­ing fine sig­na­ture drinks in a cav­ernous space.

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