In the seven years since the introduction of the small venue licence, Adelaide’s alleys and side streets have become crowded with speakeasies and dives inspired by everything from alpine chalets to Harry Potter. But a newer addition has a more subtle approach. Welcome to Leigh Street Wine Room, the wine bar masquerading as a restaurant.
If the venue’s name doesn’t make it suitably clear, the focus is obvious on entering. The long, narrow bar sits under an elegant arched ceiling, and the wall behind it is lined with hundreds of wine bottles. The first page of the drinks list is labelled “not wine”. After that it’s minimal intervention drops as far as the eye can see.
My eye is immediately drawn to the Maenad, and not just because it fits the Dionysian theme. This skin contact savagnin chardonnay brings together two of Adelaide’s great minimal intervention advocates in James Madden (Scintilla) and Jay Marinis (Son Of Dot) and promises to be the perfect pre-dinner drop. The sharp acidity means that each sip is like biting into a grapefruit. By the time the first dishes arrive, I’m salivating.
The menu ranges from bar snacks to substantial meals and we begin with the Jerusalem artichoke, which arrives as a mound of perfectly fried morsels. Each knob releases a cloud of steam as I bite into it, the crispy exterior giving way to creamy flesh with a rich, nutty flavour. Add in the lemon aioli and there’s an upscale fish and chip vibe that’s accentuated by the crumpled paper on which the dish is served.
Next to it, a burrata is splayed out on a dish surrounded by radicchio jam that hints at both bitter and sweet. The low lighting in the bar means that I don’t get to enjoy the full visual appeal of the dish, but it does make the dining experience intimate, even seated at the bar. The acoustic tiles lining each wall also play their part, meaning there’s a low hum of conversation and mid-90s hip-hop that allows for easy conversation.
Looking to order another glass, I browse the wine list, which is extensive without being intimidating. Reds and whites are grouped into categories like Lighter (“bright and vibrant, to invigorate”), Medium (“textural and structured, to contemplate”) and Fuller (“round and plush, to alleviate”).
The Foradori Teroldego falls into the middle category, and when I ask the waiter for some more information he starts telling me about the rarely used grape before digressing into a story about the owner of the family-run winery in Northern Italy. Rich and fruity without being overpowering, the wine hints at the minerality and wild berries of the Tyrolean Alps, and sits nicely alongside the house-cured meats that soon arrive.