As we walk to our meeting point at the eastern edge of Rundle Street I relish the anticipatory thrill of an unknown journey. In the capable hands of the Adelaide Bar Boys I have been assured that I will be guided through Adelaide’s beverage based resources with a personalised touch and local know-how. A plethora of new bars seem to be opening lately, each with its own unique twist, and I am eager to see what Branden and Nathan have decided to showcase.
Luckily we don’t have to wait long, as our first bar is just around the corner. Sliding into the seats of our reserved table we are welcomed by Nola’s ever pleasant staff and handed our first cocktail of the evening, a delightfully refreshing bourbon and apple concoction topped with a fanned mix of fresh and dried granny smith slices. This evening we will be taking the boys ‘Hidden Bars’ tour, where over 4 hours we will be directed through alleys and secret doorways into six bars, each with a cocktail for us to try. So we can still walk in a straight line by the end of the evening, we will also enjoy tapas style food at the first 3 bars.
When at Nola one should always partake in their incredible fried chicken. Large plates of tender chicken thigh in a oh so crunchy coating are delivered to the table, and as we try to find a balance between burnt tongues and inhaling fried nirvana, the boys break the ice by telling us a little about their own journey.
After experiencing the listlessness often felt in one’s early 20s when the overwhelming options of life can cause trepidation over which path to take, the boys decided the best option would be to take some time to experience the wider world before making choices at home. A four month trip through Europe provided them with endless anecdotes, enviable social media accounts and a big idea. In cities such as Berlin and Paris there seemed to be a multitude of tours offering a locals perspective into the more enjoyable details a city, most of which would have missed a Lonely Planet mention.
Reflecting back on their home town, the boys noticed a strange lack of a similar service in Adelaide. To be fair, it seems like it’s only been the last few years when our fair city has truly begun to shine in the arena of social and culinary venues, but all the more reason for creating a venture to facilitate experiencing them.
Energised with their shared vision, the boys went straight from their return flight home to the door of Tourism SA, eager to see if they also believed that Adelaide may be able to showcase itself to visitors and locals alike, one small group at a time. Cut to seven months later, and the boys have achieved their dream, with the first tours hitting the pavement this month.
Their attention to detail is impressive. We are seamlessly guided into warm nooks of new tastes and stimulating decors. I feel like I’m on a mystery scavenger hunt as fireplaces swing to one side or solid walls become doorways, with each venue revealing either a signature existing cocktail or showcasing a new recipe created especially for us. The platters of cheeses and antipasto are so plentiful that even I, a practised cheese enthusiast, have to admit defeat before the wooden boards are anywhere close to bare.
As we move from bar to bar there’s a growing sense of pleasant intimacy. The boy’s vibrant personalities encourage the group to mingle and exchange their own stories of travels and experiences, until by the end of the night we sit comfortably as a group savouring our last cocktail together. I also appreciate the pace of the tour. In our modern fast paced culture I can often forget that I don’t need to skull my cocktail in the same manner as that of a hasty pre-meeting tea. With 30-45 minutes at each bar we have plenty of time to admire, photograph, sip and reflect upon each beverage before the boys gently encourage us back into our coats and on to the next venue.
As Adelaide diversifies and intensifies its availability of quality local venues, the bar boys hope to follow the growing trends and lead both locals and visitors alike into the sensory world of our growing small bar scene. Guest can choose the Hidden Bar tour, if they would like to embrace their sense of adventure, or a specialised Gin or Whisky tour to be shown the quality hiding in plain sight along the back shelves of the bar.
Though the group I was with was well versed in Adelaide’s options, each of us still had happy moments of discovery. And while I’m sure that visitors will appreciate the chance to be locally lead, as someone who feels overwhelmed by choice simply attempting to select a chocolate bar in the supermarket, I found that it was incredibly relaxing to not have to think about the next steps and to let the boys direct the evening’s entertainment. I highly recommend their company, energy and enthusiasm for your next night out on the town.
Words by Danielle Clarke