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December 7, 2023

New pride at The Lion Hotel

Head Chef Ali Seedsman is now at the helm of the Lion Hotel, bringing her straight-shooting style and no-nonsense cooking to the North Adelaide institution.

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  • Words: Helen Karakulak
  • Pictures: Claudia Dichiera

CityMag is not the first, and likely not the last, to ask Ali Seedsman: what is your favourite thing to cook?


The Lion Hotel
161 Melbourne St, North Adelaide SA 5006
Mon –Sunday 7:30am ’til late


It’s a question we ask all the chefs we speak to, and most have one – or make one up for our benefit.

But not Ali.

“I’ve been in the industry for getting on to 40 years… I’ve seen so much and done so much that I couldn’t pick,” she says.

“I don’t have favourites; I like anything that’s good.”

Anything that’s good is what you can expect from the Lion Hotel with Ali at the helm.

Since becoming head chef in April, the restaurant is “a safe bet” for patrons, whether they’re catching up in the garden bar, popping into the bistro before the footy or celebrating in the dining room.

“The Lion dining room has been an institution for a really long time and was always known as a fantastic place to come and dine,” Ali says.

Ali’s resume is impressive, having worked at Sidewood Estate Restaurant in the Adelaide Hills and Walk the Talk café in Verdun since leaving Sydney (where she cooked at Bayswater Brasserie and MG Garage) because she was “sick of the rat race.”

Putting her experience to work at the Lion, Ali wants to uphold its legacy as a home of award-winning food, while still offering a relaxed and accessible yet elevated environment for diners.

To do that, she says it’s about teaching, quality control and consistency.

“It’s just a matter of getting all of the staff on board,” she says.

“They’re all very keen and really wanting to learn.”

Ready to dine

The Lion Hotel is heritage-listed and was built in 1881 with a brewery, malthouse and cellars.

In 1972 it was renamed the Old Lion, before going back to just The Lion Hotel under the stewardship of Tim Gregg and Andrew Svencis who purchased and renovated the hotel in 1996.

The Lion changed hands after a Covid-prompted closure in 2020 and is now owned by the Duxton Pubs Group.

“I think the Lion just upholds its own history. It’s been here for so long and the building in itself is the landmark,” Ali says.

The Lion Hotel has a range of dining options and experiences from their wine room, breakfast offerings, an express menu for those looking for a coffee and pastry on the go, the dining room, and more casual dining in the bistro.

“In the bistro, we get so many people and this is a big learning curve for me because I had to start doing my roster around the football,” Ali says. 

What’s an elevated experience without a pretty cocktail?

In the bistro you’ll find your pub classics perfect for a post or pre-footy feed. But the Lion dining room offers a more intimate experience, with a summer menu that shows Ali’s strength: no-nonsense, quality food.

“We use a lot of South Australian produce, and I don’t like to use a lot of fancy textured meats that ends up with the food not looking like anything that it started out as,” she says.

Ali doesn’t like to mix cuisines and isn’t in the business of messing with a dish to make it more fancy.

She describes the overall menu as modern Australian, a term she remembers kicking around in the 90s as Asian influences made their way onto menus.

“Since then, we’ve had lots of Moroccan and Vietnamese and all those sorts of influences,” Ali says.

“How do we describe a menu that has a little bit of everything? Modern Australia seems to cover it the best.”

So, what falls into the Lion’s modern Australian?

The jerk squid, which is a West Indian marinated squid dish paired with coriander, yellow grape tomato and citrus salad was a CityMag favourite.

“We always have a couple of different meat cuts and the clientele that come here, probably 80 per cent of them are looking for a really good piece of red meat,” Ali says.

“Dry aged duck with a just classic combination like fresh horseradish, Crème fraîche and pickled beetroot.

“Kingfish sashimi with a dashi and wasabi oil dishes that just sort of lets the protein shine through.

“The chicken Maryland that’s boneless, it’s been cooked slowly and then just crisped up on the grill with a nice little warm spring salad of asparagus and chard, peas and pea butter.

“I suppose the dining experience in here is elevated because of the environment and the staff and the customer service they get in here, the table service they get.”

For Ali, it’s about maintaining the ethos the Lion has always had, with hospitality at its heart.

“People forget about the meaning of the word hospitality and being hospitable… I just want that confidence to be grown again, here, with every aspect.”

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