Sometimes the most romantic nights are the ones you spend at home cooking together and dancing in the kitchen with some wine. But sometimes the perfect environment, the perfect table, or the perfect chef is enough to make a humble city restaurant seem like the most romantic place in the world.
Here are 10 food experiences perfect for date night, special anniversaries or Valentine's day. Most of them are pretty central to Adelaide, but for a few you'll have to travel further afield. Some involve quiet tables in dimly lit corners while others are louder more energetic affairs, but each one has the potential to set the scene for a perfect meal you won't forget.
Good For: Fun, modern, atmosphere, switched on staff.
Africola has been the darling of Adelaide's food scene since it opened, if by darling you mean that one friend or relative who dresses wildly, swears like a sailor and plies you with alcohol every time you see them. The menu doesn't give a lot away. Divided into meat, sea and veg, you'll get some hints to the ingredients but not a lot of information about what's actually coming to the table. The key at Africola is trust. Trust your servers, trust the bar staff and trust the chef. The food has switched from the South African boerewors and bunny chow to more North African inspired dishes with a hearty dose of South Australian produce, native greens and gifts of the sea.
Africola definitely falls into the 'loud and energetic' category. When you book request a kitchen table. This will get you a spot at the bar that surrounds the open kitchen. Sitting with strangers might not be everyone's idea of romance, but when you're up there it seems like it's just you and the chefs. Watching the chefs work adds a little excitement to the night, and it's helped when it's accompanied by a bit of wine or one of Africola's signature cocktails. Also make sure you pick the 'Feed Me' menu; add booze too. It's the best way to dine at Africola. if you're apprehensive about what it going to arrive just let your server know of any allergies or aversions and they'll make sure you've got a cracking meal ahead of you.
Alternatively, the fairy lit tables lining East Terrace are another romantic choice. We'll still take the kitchen table any day.
You'll leave once the sun has gone down: well fed, a little bit boozy and feeling quite loved up indeed.
While Africola might not top everyone's list, it'd be hard to find a lineup of Romantic spots in Adelaide from the last 35 years that didn't have Windy Point there somewhere. The restaurant is perched in the Adelaide Foothills and has some of the best views in the city. Many of the tables that sit closest to the windows are all set for two, and Windy Point has been the setting for many engagements and anniversaries over the years. Outside, Adelaide twinkles below. In Summer there's a good chance you'll catch the sunset as you dine, and after dark, the views are just as good.
Thankfully, Windy Point survives on more than just its view. The restaurant offers classic fine dining food and service. Their staff are there to make sure your experience is memorable and comfortable. The menu may not be groundbreaking, but the dishes combine skill and quality. It's a restaurant that ticks boxes for both food lovers and those who like to play it safe. Yes, there's a chance it's also where your parents might spend their next date night, but that's no reason you shouldn't enjoy it too.
Mandoo is potentially the most unlikely name on the list. It's not particularly luxurious and it's not particularly inventive, but there are a few reasons why it's the perfect place for romance. The menu here is small and there are pretty much three options: dumplings, bibimbap and shared hotpot. The restaurant itself is also tiny. There are just a handful of tables, and your elbows might find themselves pretty close to someone else's elbows, but the atmosphere is cosy and welcoming. Owner Ki Dong Ra is there every day, he stands by the front counter hand folding dumplings and placing them into the steamers. He's quick but precise, and you can tell that a lot of care goes into each and every dumpling.
While you should always order some dumplings, the pick for this romantic meal is the Korean hot pot. The soup will arrive at the table bubbling as well as plates of meat and vegetables that you'll need to cook. Sharing food is a great way to bond over a meal, cooking it together is even better. While there's no wine or fancy cocktails to accompany your meal, you'll have a lot of fun working out the best way to hot pot and having a great meal together.
The other bonus of Mandoo is that your bill at the end of the night is going to be a lot lower than many of the places on this list. You don't need a wallet full of cash to have a romantic night out.
Mandoo 3/26 Bank St
Adelaide Ph: 8231 3303 Open: 11:30am-9pm Monday-Friday, 12pm-9pm Saturday
The Enchanted Fig Tree
Good For: Atmosphere, the whole experience, secluded.
The Enchanted Fig Tree is one of the most unique spots on this list, but it's also one of the hardest to get to. Not only will you need to catch a ferry or a plane to get to this Kangaroo Island restaurant, but even from the main towns of Penneshaw or Kingscote you still have about an hours drive till you make it to lunch. But there's good reason why people put in all that effort.
The restaurant gets its name from the ancient fig tree that grows on the property. It isn't just a bit of pretty scenery, the restaurant is actually set amongst the branches of the tree. The sprawling boughs have formed tiny alcoves that have then been turned into private dining areas. The thick coverage of leaves are enough to keep rain out, but leave you surrounded dappled sunlight. The menu has a strong seafood focus thanks to the bounty of fresh seafood available on the island.
Getting here isn't easy, not only with the extra costs of making your way to the island, but also because the restaurant is only open from December through to April. To make the most of your visit, consider spending a couple of extra days staying on the island. It'll make the ferry ride seem a bit more reasonable, and your day won't be marred by stressing over long car trips and ferry timetables.
Good For: Atmosphere, some of the best French food in Adelaide.
It all started with some pork belly. Then Hey Jupiter added their fresh tiled facade. Then came the dinner menu. What was once a place to grab a coffee and a pork belly sandwich is now a fully fledged French restaurant. The first tip for your romantic dinner is to pick an outdoor table. The cafe is on Ebenezer Place, so it's fairly quiet and there aren't too many cars likely to pass by. It really does feel like you could be dining at a street side cafe in France, just without the cigarette smoke.
The menu is undeniably simple but perfectly French. Small plates of garlic prawns, white wine mussels or a house made terrine are the perfect way to start the meal. Then it's on to the mains with a choice of roast chicken, pan-fried fish or three different cuts of steak with fries. Like the best of French cooking, it's a menu that combines extravagance (oysters topped with black caviar) with simplicity (roast chicken served with jus and fries). Don't worry, the addition of a full lunch and dinner menu also came with a liquor licence. Add some French beer or cider, a bottle of wine, or even one of the house cocktails.
A night at Hey Jupiter is a lot cheaper than a trip to Paris, and while you're dining you can barely tell you're not there.
Hardy's Verandah is all about luxury. The restaurant sits inside the grand Mount Lofty House and aims for opulence with its decor and its food. Comfortable leather seats are perched around tables for two. The view looks out over the Mount Lofty Ranges; its beautiful and green through most of the year and then somehow becomes even more beautiful in Autumn when the leaves all start turning shades of orange, yellow and red.
The menu changes daily but features plenty of South Australian seafood and other local produce. There are hints of influence from Japanese cooking and the New Nordic style. The key is to take it slow. The menus are all multi-course, with options for just how much you're prepared to eat.
For a bit of extra romance start your day a little bit earlier and head to the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens. They're just around the corner, and a walk through the garden paths and around the lakes will have you ready for the romantic meal to follow.
Hardy's Verandah Mount Lofty House
74 Mount Lofty Summit Road
Crafers Ph: 8130 9263 Website:www.hardysverandahrestaurant.com.au/ Open: Dinner from 6pm daily, Lunch from 12pm Saturday and Sunday
Good For: Atmosphere, good food for sharing, modern, fun.
A night at Golden Boy falls into a similar vein as Africola, not only because they're both inside two different sections of the same building. The food is obviously different; Golden Boy's menu is modern Thai with a few other South East Asian influences. But both restaurants are modern and a bit more vibrant than you might expect from your standard romantic dinner. The same advice applies to Golden Boy: get a table at the kitchen. Watching the chefs work always makes for good dinner conversation, but you'll also be tucked away from the main hubbub of the restaurant.
Choose the Tuk Tuk menu too. This lets the staff take over. They'll bring you the best picks from the menu, but they'll also work within the parameters of your likes and dislikes and any allergies. The dishes vary between delicate finger foods to heartier curries and noodle dishes. You'll get to eat a bit of everything. Plus, they say chilli is an aphrodisiac and Thai's like things spicy.
Golden Boy 309 North Terrace
Adelaide Ph: 8227 0799 Website:golden-boy.com.au/ Open: Dinner Tuesday-Saturday
Hahndorf Hill ChocoVino Experience
Good For: Something a bit different, chocolate, great views.
Unlike most of the places on this list, this isn't a spot for lunch or dinner. The Hahndorf Hill ChocoVino Experience is a wine tasting with a difference. Not only will you be tasting Hanhdorf Hill's range of wines, but they've also selected some of the best chocolates from around the world to accompany each drop. You'll learn more about tasting chocolate, where the different flavours come from, how it's made, and how to get the most out of a block.
It's not just the chocolate this gets this on the list. The Hahndorf Hill Winery cellar door has a glass-walled tasting room that looks out over their vineyards. You almost feel like you're sitting on a floating platform, but without having to worry about things like wind and rain. The chocolate and wine tasting is a fun experience, and the setting just makes it even more romantic.
A romantic evening about NOLA is all about picking the right night. After all, while NOLA serves food it also styles itself as a whiskey and craft beer bar. Head there on a Friday or Saturday night and you're more likely to find yourself in a crowded bar than a romantic dinner locale. NOLA is open from Tuesday to Sunday, and if you're popping in mid-week or on a Sunday evening you'll have a very different experience.
When you get there head straight upstairs. There are some tall bar seats, but you'll also find the room scattered with small round tables. The bar upstairs is often closed on quieter nights, but you can always pop downstairs to order drinks and food. There are fresh and refined dishes, like oysters and cured kingfish, but there's also fried chicken and a range of po' boys. The food is fun, but there's also a great atmosphere. Of course, you'll have to check out the drinks too; the Lady Nola is an essential cocktail to try but once you've had that there's plenty more to peruse on the menu.
Good For: Private, intimate, cocktails, hidden away.
Perhaps this is one to visit after you've finished your meal at one of the restaurants above. Maybe Mae doesn't serve food, but they do have a great cocktail list and one of the best looking bars in town. To get there you need to head to Peel Street. Maybe Mae is inside the little pathway through to Leigh Street. The stairs going up lead to Bread and Bone, but head downstairs and press against the wood panelled wall and Maybe Mae is revealed.
It's a hidden little speakeasy with lush green leather booths and a great cocktail list. For those times when you just want to slink away in the corner and enjoy some drinks, you can't really get a better atmosphere than this.
Maybe Mae 15 Peel St
Adelaide Open: 5pm-2am Monday-Saturday, 6pm-2am Sunday