What better way to enjoy Adelaide’s sunny weather than in its most beautiful, botanical eateries? Rebecca Douglas takes a tour of 10 of the South Australian capital’s best garden cafes…
1. Topiary, Tea Tree Gully
Greeting you at the front of Newman’s Nursery, this café offers lush views of the plants inside, or sit out in the sandstone alfresco area among the mini citrus trees and feel like you’re on a Mediterranean getaway. The food is locally sourced and often straight from the garden, so everything is fresh and flavourful.
You should try: Eggs benedict with its pink beetroot hollandaise is a highlight. Or perhaps you fancy tapas or scones with jam and cream? Seriously, you can’t go wrong.
Where: 1361 North East Rd, Tea Tree Gully; 08 8263 0818; thetopiarycafe.com.au
2. Pavé Cafe, Norwood
The inner-suburban café strip of The Parade in Norwood is certainly not lacking in quality eating establishments. This quirky find is a welcome addition. Situated next to a bike shop, it continues the cycling theme with wheels propped next to hanging plants on the rock-and-wood walls and modern eco theming throughout. Expect a few laptops on the tables and communal bench-top along with the terracotta pots of succulents.
The menu: Chic lunchtime fare you’d expect – sourdough sandwiches and smoothies. Try a wholesome breakfast on the weekend when you’re in the mood for people watching.
Where: 138b The Parade, Norwood; 08 8431 5711; pavecafe.com.au
3. Tin Cat Cafe, Kent Town
A stone’s throw from the city centre, the Tin Cat Café oozes modern cool factor through every pore, from the fluorescent string-entwined tree out the front to the vibrant artwork on the walls. Make sure to sit in the outdoor area out the back under the tree’s protective shadow or next to the ivy-covered wall amongst the preppy locals. While your food is cooking, bash out a tune on one of the two pianos in the alcove or check out the upended sailboat.
Why would you?: Service is fast and friendly and the food does justice to the elevated price tag, with dishes such as eggplant ragu and zucchini flowers on the menu.
Where: 107 Rundle Street, Kent Town; 08 8362 4748.
4. Avalon, Woodside
Forty minutes’ drive east of Adelaide, past ghost gums and gorges, creeks and roadside apple stalls, you’ll find the town of Woodside. Avalon is the kind of place you’d take your grandma for tea and scones because you secretly love it as much as she does. It’s quiet, set back from the road and has charm in spades. Inside you’ll be surrounded by nougat, crockery and French provincial-style furniture for sale. Outside, choose from the front or rear courtyard, draw up a wrought iron chair.
The signature experience: Hoe into a Hills produce grazing platter or Turkish pide among the magpies, gargoyles and chimineas and rustling leaves. Elegant indeed.
Where: 54 Onkaparinga Valley Rd, Woodside; 0415 176 763
5. Herbees Cafe, Hahndorf
This enchanting café in the Adelaide Hills has whimsy aplenty! Plonk yourself at a rose-patterned table among rainbow pinwheels, leafy creepers and tribe of garden gnomes and feast on one of their massive burgers and a fresh juice. There’s also an eclectic mix of German sausages, local produce, salads, baguettes and noodles on the menu, as well as spiders, caffeinated delights and alcohol to wash them down.
Post-meal promenade?: Browse the knickknacks on sale and stroll around the fairy garden dotted with red spotted toadstools and a wishing well. Be sure to take your photo in front of the fairy wings wall. Cute overload!
Where: 55 Mount Barker road, Hahndorf; 08 8388 7929
6. Sarah’s Sister’s Sustainable Cafe, Semaphore
The rear dining room of this funky café in the city’s west looks out over a garden centre’s pansies, hanging geraniums, colourful watering cans and seashell wind chimes. Cashed-up hippies, hipsters and vegans indulge in dishes such as crepes and gnocchi from the cute hand-lettered menu while sitting under the tricycles hanging from the octagonal tent roof.
Local philosophy: This place is earnestly local-sourced, seasonal and planet-friendly – the menu describes the commitment to the cause with gusto. Aside from that, it’s a truly beautiful place to be. After your meal, wander down the street for a walk along the beach. Ah, the serenity.
Where: 117 Semaphore Rd, Semaphore; 08 8449 5817
7. Bliss Organic Garden Cafe, Adelaide
Tucked into a side street across from the Central Market, Bliss lives up to its name. While the organic, vegan vibe of the place comes on rather strong (there’s a yoga studio upstairs and shelves of cruelty-free products for sale), even the staunchest omnivore will likely be won over by the Balinese-flavoured tranquility of the courtyard and its big, shady tree. The menu is filled with the requisite wraps, raw power salads and cleansing juices, but there’s bakes and burgers for carb-lovers and fake bacon in several dishes for meat freaks.
The bliss test: The reasonable prices, generous portion sizes and kind hospitality (a chalkboard sign proclaims breastfeeding mums are welcome). Best for brunch on a sunny morning.
Where: 7 Compton St, Adelaide; 08 8231 0205; blissorganiccafe.com.au
8. Town Hall Garden Cafe, Adelaide
Tucked behind the Adelaide Town Hall smack bang in the middle of the CBD, this unassuming eatery is like an upmarket kiosk for grown-ups set amid heritage churches and council chambers. Office workers converge here for lunchtime meetings, chatting with friends or to flick through a magazine and enjoy some alone time away from the bustle of the city streets. The atrium roof with heaters and clear blinds in winter to keep out the elements, while still affording a view of the gorgeous geraniums, roses and abundant palm fronds.
Look beyond: The wholesome, unfussy food, wooden tables and canvas foldout chairs are for those seeking serenity, not Instagram snaps, but this place is definitely worth seeking out.
Where: 128 King William St, Adelaide; 08 8211 6266; khsc3.com
9. Mockingbird Lounge, Glenelg South
This bookshop and café is only 10 minutes’ walk from the main strip of beachside Glenelg, but feels like discovering the locals’ private literary universe. The musty smells of the second-hand bookstores of yore have been banished, exorcised by the latest hot titles and time-honoured favourites in premium condition. Select a toastie, tea or an old-style soda, perhaps, from the menu (housed in a repurposed Little Golden Book!), then venture through the various book-lined rooms to the Secret Garden out the back to enjoy it.
Brain food: The shop hosts book clubs, colouring-in sessions, writing workshops, high teas and wine nights.
Where: 63a Broadway, Glenelg South; 08 7007 2242; mockingbirdlounge.com.au
10. Further afield… The Barn Bistro, McLaren Vale
It may be quite a hike from the city centre (40 minutes’s drive south, to be exact), but the food at the Barn makes the trip well worthwhile. Housed in an unassuming 1840s coach way station along the main drag of the McLaren Vale, you might never guess such an enchanting vine-draped courtyard awaits you inside. Fully heated and air conditioned, you’ll be comfortable regardless of the weather, and bathed in oodles of natural light.
Dinner delights: Glass lanterns and fairy lights creating an intimate feel in the evening. Join the well-dressed, well-heeled crowd for a casual drink or an impressive meal, with mains around $30.
Where: 252 Main Rd, McLaren Vale; 08 8323 8618; thebarnbistro.com.au
Rebecca Douglas is a writer, reviewer and childish geek who is impatiently waiting for Australia to get its own Legoland. Drop in on her website for more of her words: rebeccadouglas.com.au