I recently got back from one of the nicest holidays I’ve had in a long time. Adelaide is the capital of South Australia, a two-hour flight from Sydney, and a really lovely little city. Quiet maybe but definitely not boring, with so many fabulous restaurants to try, and one of the most amazing produce markets I’ve ever seen right in the center of the city. I’ve only been home for a week, but I’m already thinking about going back. One of my favourite restaurants we visited was called Sparrow Kitchen and Bar in North Adelaide, a short cab ride (we had a mental taxi driver who was too busy pointing out the landmarks to worry that he was driving on the wrong side of the road) or a 30-minute walk from the city center. I read about the restaurant in the Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Guide, and with a dish called Duck Donuts on the menu, it was clear that I had to visit.
I fancied the quirky yet classy décor, especially the sparrow pictures coloured in by kids in the hallway near the bathrooms. The menu was comprehensive, covering everything from tapas to seafood to pizzas and a wine list that left you spoiled for choice. It was a quiet Thursday lunch on our first visit, when we were told the sad news that their pizza oven was on the fritz, but the rest of the menu was available. Unfortunate, since the both of us had our eye on the pizzas, but it nonetheless gave us a reason to return.
There was a nice selection of tapas, though items were priced and served individually which sort of goes against the “sharing” concept that is usually associated with tapas. We of course tried the duck donuts with porcini salt ($3.80 each), a crispy dough exterior giving way to tender shredded duck meat inside. It was very flavoursome and a great blend of textures. I could have eaten many more of these, and sort of wish I had.
I can never go past a mini wagyu burger, there is something so cute about them. This was served with pancetta and beetroot crisp ($5.80), and although this one was delicious, nothing can compare to those we had from Etch at the Taste of Sydney launch. We also tried the Giant South Australian prawn with garlic and lemon ($8.50), and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bigger prawn in my life! It was very tasty, although slightly messy to eat as we had to shell it ourselves.
On our second visit, we ordered fewer tapas, knowing how full we were after last time. The braised pork and fennel sausages ($12) were tiny in size but full of flavour, served in a tomato sauce. I had a lone mushroom arancini ($3.50) which was one of the nicest I’ve ever had – perfectly cooked risotto, with a golden and crispy fried exterior.
With pizzas out of the question, we both settled on pasta dishes. There was a great variety with very unique flavour combinations. The angel hair with cockles, peas and mint ($14.90) also went down well, with great fresh ingredients. It was a very summery dish that I think worked quite well.
For me, it was quite a tough decision between Rabbit Linguine with almonds and thyme, Pappadelle with beef cheek ragu and the Spaghetti with goat meatballs, nutmeg and basil but I was happy with my choice of spaghetti ($16.90). The entrée serving was very generous and I loved every bite. The meatballs were perfect and flavoursome with the addition of fennel seeds, and I thought this was a very successful modern take on a classic pasta dish that teamed perfectly with the glass of New Zealand Pinot Noir I was drinking.
On our second visit, thankfully, the pizza oven was back in working order. The scallop pizza was a relatively new addition to the menu, which has not been updated on the website yet, so sorry no price for this one. It was served with red cabbage and pesto. The flavours were interesting but I don’t think I would order this for myself.
However, I was very happy with my choice of BBQ Rabbit Pizza with home made BBQ sauce, rosemary and fontina ($17.90). I hadn’t eaten rabbit in a long time, and didn’t know that it was actually white meat! The pizza had a great blend of sophisticated and yet homely flavours that worked well and I really enjoyed it.
We were seriously full by this point, but luckily my second stomach kicked into gear when asked if we’d like to see the dessert menu. There several intriguing dishes that caught my fancy, but we decided to share some churros with chocolate sauce ($8.50). The churros were nice, although I would have preferred a thicker, richer chocolate sauce to dip into.
On our second visit, the lovely waitress convinced me that I must try the Treacle tart with goat’s cheese ice cream ($7.50). I liked the deconstructed approach, with the toasted bread crumbs served separately from the tart.
It was a rather small serving, but quite delicious. Neither the tart nor the ice cream were very sweet though, and perhaps just boosting the sugar a tiny bit would have made it even better.
The Crema catalana ($9) was a big success though, with the telltale visible vanilla seeds and a delicate flavour. I was, however expecting the top to be bruleed and crunchy, but it was a liquid caramel like you’d find in a crème caramel. And so, both times we left happy, with full tummies after lazy long lunches. I especially liked the mix of classiness and quirkiness in the décor, and the unique reinterpretations of classic dishes with some of South Australia’s finest produce that really characterise the menu. I think it’s safe to say I’ll be back for a third visit next time I’m in town – they serve breakfast on the weekend as well!
Sparrow Kitchen & Bar – 10 O’Connell St North Adelaide