The West End is Adelaide's night life capital. With quirky bars and tantalising food and drinks, this vibrant entertainment precinct is waiting for you to explore.
By Marc Llewellyn
Adelaide’s West End is an entertainment hotspot, with dozens of eateries and quirky bars pumping out tantalising food and drinks until late. This thriving precinct is a vibrant art hub too, as well as a popular student hangout thanks to its university campus.
- Dine at trendy cafés and restaurants
- Drink in compact and cozy laneway bars
- See contemporary art in designer surrounds
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Top things to do in Adelaide's West End
Start with breakfast on Peel or Leigh streets
Along with Leigh Street, which runs parallel to it, Peel Street is a laneway (rather than a main thoroughfare) bursting with restaurants, bistros, cafes and bars. Start your day with a breakfast of a delicious donut or brioche and great coffee in La Moka, a hole-in-the-wall Italian-style eatery with a bright yellow door. This cosy place turns into a cocktail and wine bar in the evenings serving platters of salami, prosciutto, bread, cheese and olives. Over on Leigh Street get your caffeine fix and tuck into pastries or granola at Coffee Branch, or a bacon and egg roll, a toasted sandwich or a bacon and eggs breakfast - plus a half serve Belgian waffle to finish - at the somewhat interestingly named Adelaide Waffle's Waffle and Coffee.
Or wait for brunch or lunch
Pop into Bread & Bone Wood Grill on Peel Street, for gourmet burgers, hot dogs, local wines and beers from boutique breweries. Try the duck burger, or the barbeque hotdog with bacon and onion rings. Or, for a mix of Asian, Middle Eastern and European flavours, try the aptly named Peel Street restaurant on the same side of the laneway. Get a mouthful of their signature dish, the chicken and banana blossom salad. They offer a four course tasting menu too. If you fancy something more traditional, turn into Leigh Street and drop into Rigoni’s Bistro. It's an Adelaide institution that excels in old school Italian classics, like risotto, osso bucco, and pastas.
Shop for contemporary art
Work that food off with a stroll up to Morphett Street - approximately 600 metres from Peel Street - and visit JamFactory. This not-for-profit organisation is recognised globally as a centre for excellence for the arts, and provides skills and business training for artists and designers. It has four purpose built studios producing ceramics, furniture, metal and glass, and smaller studios for local artists too. You can watch people doing things like blowing glass, before checking out more contemporary art in the gallery. There is a retail shop here, and another in Rundle Mall. If you are up for another art attack, visit the Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, on North Terrace. Exhibitions of contemporary visual art are displayed over two floors inside the University of South Australia’s eye-catching Hawke Building; it might be small but the art has wow factor.
Drink and be merry in tiny laneway bars
It’s evening, and time to explore some of the intimate laneway bars on Peel and Leigh streets. Among the best is Clever Little Tailor, on Peel Street, a cool buzzing bar with a speakeasy feel. You could also mellow out a few steps away at the art deco-inspired Maybe Mae. This opulent basement bar has green leather booths and mirrored walls - it's one of the best cocktail joints in South Australia. Another Peel Street local hero is funky Chihuahua Bar, with its Mexican-style art and snug cocktail booths. Try the tequila if you dare. Another tipple? Then join the locals over another cocktail at the Pink Moon Saloon. This tiny, quirky triangle-shaped venue is sandwiched between two much taller buildings on Leigh Street. It’s made up of a pair of compact huts with steeply pitched roofs and a small courtyard in between.
Take in tapas, pizza and late night sounds
You might be feeling a little hungry by now. Luckily there are traditional Spanish tapas and cool jazz on the menu at Udaberri on Leigh Street. Meanwhile, in Peel Street you can find rustic La Rambla Tapas Bar, which serves sangria and cocktails with a slice of seductive Spanish vibe too. If you like your tapas a bit more multicultural then retrace your steps to Leigh Street and visit Casablaba. This place is decorated in a mix of styles, including Moroccan, Turkish, Balinese and Cambodian. Insider tip: Tuesday is Paella night, Wednesday is tapas with free salsa lessons night, and Thursday is gourmet pizza night. Casablaba turns into a late night music venue on Fridays and Saturdays, when bands play soul, swing, funk, groove and rhythm and blues.
Finish with a rooftop nightcap
Clear your head with impressive high-up views of the city at the slick Hennessey Rooftop Bar, on top of the Mayfair Hotel, or the contemporary 2KW Bar and Restaurant. Both are on King William Street, roughly 400 metres from Peel Street.
How to get there
You can walk to the West End from Adelaide’s main shopping street, Rundle Mall, in about 10 minutes.