Current Issue #488

The changing face of Hindley Street

Hindley Street circa 2015
Hindley Street circa 2015

It is one of the country’s most infamous strips, but Hindley Street is slowly returning to the bustling and affable street Apoteca proprietor Paola Coro remembers from her youth.

This might seem strange to those born after 1980 but I have fond memories of visiting Hindley Street with my family when I was young. Growing up in Coober Pedy, a trip to Adelaide was an adventure as was the requisite visit to Hindley. Back then it didn’t have the reputation most would associate with it; it was a destination that enjoyed a mix of daytime, evening and nighttime attractions. For my family, Hindley was where we would share delicious food and I would do the city activities a country kid does when in the big smoke: browse the record shop, catch a flick at the cinema and burn through pocket money at Downtown arcade.

But it’s the food I remember the most. We would always get gelati from Flash (the famous coffee and gelati spot) or grab a meal at Sorrento or La Cantina. Hindley was the place to go for great Italian food back then.

Then the street changed. It morphed into a late-night strip of nightclubs and adult entertainment businesses. The restaurants and cafes moved east to Rundle Street. Hindley got a bad rep, maybe unreasonably so, but the stigma stuck.

Despite this, my business partners and I decided to open a Parisian-style restaurant and wine bar, The Apothecary 1878 (which we recently relaunched as Apoteca), smack bang in the middle of Hindley Street in 2002. Friends were concerned: “Hindley, are you sure?” But it seemed to be on the cusp of change. It was earmarked as the new centre of arts and culture. The bookshop Imprints had been a Hindley staple since 1984 and joining them were the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, which had just moved into Grainger Studio, Arts SA and advertising agency KWP!, which was just around the corner. The time was right to introduce a wine bar and restaurant to the mix.

Apoteca, Hindley Street
Morgan Sette
Apoteca, Hindley Street

We didn’t realise how lively the street would be; it remained a hub of late-night activity and it was clear from the outset that it was a nighttime precinct not a mixed-use precinct. But I still loved the street. Our regulars called us an oasis in the desert, they wanted to stop by for a drink and a good night out, but occasionally Hindley’s reputation would make them think twice. A question kept nagging me: “should we move?” I asked myself this countless times over the years. There were plenty of other precincts in the city calling out for a place like The Apothecary 1878. But I loved the building and its many spaces to enjoy a glass of wine or a meal, especially the enchanting cellar, which is my favourite dining space in Adelaide and one that couldn’t be replicated anywhere else in the city. I couldn’t and wouldn’t move.

We stuck it out. And luckily we did. Things are now turning full circle; it’s starting to remind me of the Hindley Street of my youth. The Adelaide West End Association is committed to developing Hindley Street as a mixed-use precinct. The empty shopfronts are now activated during the day and the Morphett Street end is buzzing as the medical, research and university precinct, which means there are a plethora of new food businesses to service the influx of workers, students and visitors to the west end.

Closer to home and the activation of Leigh, Peel and Gresham Streets means that the west end is once again a hub of exceptional food and wine. You can now visit half-a-dozen or so fantastic wine bars all within a few hundred metres of each other. It’s Adelaide’s go-to district for quality booze, atmosphere and service.

Finally, Hindley Street is transforming into the buzzing hive of daytime and evening activity I hoped it would be when I first opened here in 2002. Hindley Street is here to stay – as am I.

Paola Coro

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Paola Coro is the co-owner of Hindley Street restaurant and wine bar Apoteca.

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