Injecting a slice of a Parisian setting in our beautiful little CBD nook, Leigh Street's newest cafe, bar, and restaurant Plain Jane has just bumped itself up on the list of places that you need to visit in the heart of the Adelaide CBD.
Co-owned by Giuseppe "Joe" Alvaro, Tarik Nasser, and Vince Loprete, the heritage-listed establishment that has been around since 1837 can accommodate up to 280 people at a time and has perfectly nestled itself on one of the busiest spots in the city to quickly become one of the top picks to enjoy everything - from coffees to croissants to cocktails.
When you first walk past Plain Jane, you may think of it as a tiny little space with the basic cafe setting that lets you get in and out with your morning cuppa and a croissant, but as soon as you venture further, you cannot help but feel enthralled by the grand nature of the space.
The coffee station towards the entry of Plain Jane (photo by Fatema Sitabkhan)
I had no idea that this was a two-storey location-type-of-situation, so you can only imagine my state of awe, as I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a lot more in-store that I had anticipated! On the ground level, there is the bar and coffee space on your left - each of which is well stocked with a number of options of beers, wines, and spirits, along with Hustle and Bustle roast coffee beans for those much-needed double shot cappuccinos. Facing the bar and barista's nook are a series of seating areas with Moroccan-inspired tile tabletops and perforated white stools, which have also been used to create an inviting vibe in their alfresco-style outdoor dining space. Their window space is stocked with freshly prepared baked treats and sweet goods that are ideal for those looking for a quick bite or a snack to accompany their morning cuppa.
An angled staircase further into the space creates a sense of curiosity, and as soon as you start making your way upstairs, you are almost at a loss of words, because the space is not only open and inviting, but also encompasses the blend of well-aged and modern components that add to the character of Plain Jane (which is anything but plain)!
Upstairs dining and entertainment space (photo by Fatema Sitabkhan)
Everywhere you look upstairs, there's something exciting in every corner. The first thing that caught my eye was the stunning orange and greyscale feature mural that has been splashed across one side of the upstairs area. A collaborative effort between artists Sam Brooks, Dave Court and Joel Van Moore, this feature mural has become synonymous as being 'the face of Plain Jane'. During the day, the murals offer a moody yet sultry contrast to the brightness illuminating the rest of the space, thanks to their arched glass windows, the chesterfield armchairs, and the golden and brass chandeliers, which add to the Renaissance-esque feel.
Once you've taken in the breathtaking sight of the grand dining area, take a left and you'll find a (literally) lit bar space (in changing colours) that is stocked with a ton of premium wines and spirits from Australia and beyond. There's also what I like to refer to as "the secret staircase" that is decorated with a greyscale mural of a young woman on one side, with "Plain Jane" in typewriter font over a detailed, stencilled artwork of the Adelaide Riverbank - both of which were created by artist Lee Harnden.
Let's talk about the food and drink situation at Plain Jane - again, contrary to its name, it is bursting with a range of versatile flavours that are bound to take you on a gastronomically-pleasing journey! The menu was created by combining the culinary skills of Nu Suandokmai from Lantern By Nu and Vince Loprete of Italian Kitchen at Two-Twenty. With the intention of offering tapas and/or share plates to be enjoyed by small and large groups alike, customers can expect to be encouraged for a feast of a time, thanks to the contemporary fusion of different cuisines that will make every single dish a standout.
To kick off the festivities of enjoying what this space has to offer, make sure you go for their signature drink - the Parisienne Jane - a velvety concoction of Chambord, vodka, pineapple, and Sirop de Monin and offers a spicy sweetness that is tantalizing to the tastebuds.
If you're looking for a drink that will transport you to a beachy and tropical island, go for the Pine Lime Splice. Packed with Malibu, white rum, Midori, pineapple and lime, this coconut-flavoured mix is basically summer in a drink - it's refreshing, subtle, and lots of fun to enjoy on a particularly beautiful, sunny day in the CBD.
The Monet's Muse is for the Gin lovers (that is secretly in all of us). A simple yet subtle drink that has Gin, Elderflower liqueur, pineapple and Elderflower tonic, this one caught me off guard by presenting with a tangible sweetness, despite its ingredients suggesting otherwise. Savouring it sip by sip, this drink didn't take long to grow on me as one to enjoy on a night out.
For food, I was instantly drawn towards the pulled beef cheek money bags, purely because of its name! I also loved the sound of its ingredients and so, when it came out, its presentation left my jaw dropped. While it may be a bit awkward to bite into, the crunchiness from the puff pastry complemented the tender pulled beef wrapped within and dipped in the sweet chilli sauce that was served in the light bulb, this dish was a great example of one that incorporated Asian flavours and would easily win many hearts over.
Pulled beef cheek moneybags (photo by Fatema Sitabkhan)
Next up, there was the crispy prawn popcorn. Now, as you may (or may not) know, I'm not a huge fan of prawn. However, I do like the idea of popcorn - and even better when it's the meaty kind! Delivering yet again with its presentation, the 'popcorn' had a light yet crispy texture, which had juicy meat inside. Served with fresh tamarillo sauce, I was thankful for the subtle fishy taste, which made it thoroughly enjoyable - both with and without the sauce.
Finally, we had the generously-served falafel plate, which came with pieces of falafel that was served with hummus dip, pickles and Lebanese fattoush salad. The look of this dish brought back lots of nostalgic memories, as it was a staple dish that was enjoyed back home in the Middle East. You'll have to go and try the dish out for yourself, but I found the flavours of the falafel slightly...unconventional (in a good way)! There was this tangy and zesty taste that was softened by dipping the falafel in hummus, but if you're looking for the real kicker to get your tastebuds working in full form, then I'd highly suggest you to eat the falafel on its own. The salad, pickles, and hummus made the dish seem like a wholesome salad, and demonstrates a great mix of delicious and healthy - all in one dish!
Plain Jane is also open to hosting events and functions of any and all kinds - from birthdays to weddings to corporate events and everything in between, there is a dedicated events planner and coordinator (Katrina Gogos), who had a high level of experience in organizing everything from the decorations to the catering (and everything in between).
Plain Jane has managed to effectively curate its space to offer its customers with a wave of nostalgia that is balanced beautifully with its facelift of a more modern and contemporary look. Not only is the space welcoming and homey, but their menu is fit to attract a wide spectrum of customers, all of whom will be able to enjoy the ambience and experience offered by this little and quaint cafe, bar, and restaurant on Leigh Street. The owners have done a fantastic job in creating a space that is reminiscent of retro and funky vibes - such as their gorgeous floor-to-ceiling curtains, their Moroccan tiled tables, the Parisian style furniture, the dark wooden floorboards, and the ample amount of natural light that seeps in to highlight each and every aspect of this beautiful space. Whether you're hungry or thirsty or simply want to have a wander and marvel at the magnificent architectural elements, be sure to take a moment to experience the preservation of its historical integrity that make this building a real and well-aged stand-out. Giving off an intimate ambience, the space replicates the feel of a speakeasy bar. Plain Jane is all about bringing people together and having a hearty time through their food and drink on offer, so next time you're looking for a new spot to try out in town, take a short stroll down Leigh Street and prepare for their staff to treat you with the genuine hospitable service you deserve!