Words: Claudia Dichiera & David Simmons
Pictures: Claudia Dichiera & Liam Jenkins
This article first appeared in our 10 Years of CityMag, Spring 2023 edition, which is on streets now
Ten years ago, Leigh Street was permanently closed to traffic – ground zero for the city’s new ‘laneway’ culture. Though some businesses remain, much of the street has changed.
The strip between Hindley and Currie Street holds one interesting healing venture, a prominent and colourful police station, three retail stores, four office sites, 10 food venues, half of them sit-down restaurants, and six small bars.
CityMag’s creation 10 years ago coincided with the formation of the Small Venue Liquor Licence.
Co-founder of CityMag Josh Fanning says street press at the time helped to spark reform, with Leigh Street bar Udaberri at the centre of the debate.
Now a frequent hot spot for Friday night knock offs and a weekend afternoon wine, Leigh Street has a booze-themed venue on every second shop front.
Those that didn’t make it into CityMag’s guide included Italian restaurant Fugazzi (although we did attempt to add it to the collection, we were politely denied), which occupies the space once filled by renowned power restaurant Rigoni’s.
Ten years has really changed Leigh Street. CityMag is patiently awaiting what the next decade has in stall for our small-bar-enthused city, and which street will be the next big thing. Though, Leigh Street, the OG, still reigns supreme — for now.
If you find yourself stumbling through Leigh Street looking for the best small bar, need to clean up your daggy mop, or craving a coffee fix, then rely on CityMag’s 2023 guide to Leigh Street.
11-13 Leigh Street
The one that started it all. A little over 10 years ago, there wasn’t a small bar licence, let alone a small bar scene.
Now? Try walking through Adelaide without running into one, thanks, in large part, to Udaberri.
A staple of Leigh Street, Uda is a reliable place to gather with a bunch of mates, but make sure you reserve a table if you’re planning on crashing the joint with 10 of your closest.
They’re masters of vibe, ambience and cocktails – CityMag loved the Paloma and the Tropical Itch.
The city’s best DJs spin nonchalantly at the bar most nights, so you’re guaranteed a booming soundtrack for whatever brings you down Leigh Street.
First date? Second date? Public breakup? Uda has seen it all already.
Alec’s Hairdresser & Stylist
4/24 Leigh Street
Alec Mastrangelo is the most famous face on Leigh Street.
The friendly demeanour of the Puglia-born hairdresser demands all attention in his salon titled ‘Alec’s Hairdresser & Stylist’.
He happily and loudly welcomes CityMag into his hairdressing station, like we had known him for years.
In the middle of a Leigh Street rush hour, the seats for waiting customers fill. Alec introduces us to a customer in his early twenties who is waiting his turn to get his hair cut, and explains how he has been doing his hair since he was a little boy.
While snipping and shaving his friend Jeremy’s hair, Alec discloses to CityMag that next year marks 50 years since setting up his home on Leigh Street, where he continues to work despite just turning 75.
Just inside the door are crates of booze destined for his neighbours who aren’t open yet but rely on him for deliveries.
Leigh Street Wine Room
9 Leigh Street
If wine’s more your thing, you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere in the city with a more comprehensive catalogue than Leigh Street Wine Room (LSWR).
Like many of the venues on the thoroughfare, LSWR makes its home from the shell of a now-defunct business: in this case, a dry cleaner.
Homage is paid to the previous occupants, with some of the business’ signage remaining on full display – a lovely nod to an Adelaide bygone.
Not only is LSWR deft in the art of the pour, but the brilliant dining menu puts to shame some of Adelaide’s top restaurants too: the grilled broccoli is to die for, as is the black truffle risotto and the blue swimmer crab pasta.
Friendly staff, juicy Sicilian green olives and perfect mood lighting make LSWR a must-visit for CityMag.
32 Leigh Street
There aren’t many options for coffee and a cake on Leigh Street. Never fear, as Coffee Branch is still slinging coffees and offering much more than just a standard selection of cake.
CityMag indulges in a creamy cappuccino (with detailed unicorn latte art), an almond iced latte, and shares a Baci chocolate croissant between the two of us.
Delicious hot foods are on offer, with bacon and eggs, smashed avo and house-made granola gracing the menu for the corporate brunch-goer.
John and Leon walk us through the venue, proudly showcasing the range of spray-painted art on its walls.
While we watch the pair chat from a distance, befriending customers that come their way, CityMag understands why Coffee Branch has made a decade-long home on Leigh Street.
Leigh Street Luggage
22A Leigh Street
For 40 years, Julie Barnes held her well-loved spot on Leigh Street as a bespoke and independent luggage shop, specialising in all things travel.
Simply named Leigh Street Luggage, Julie says she chose the street to be her venture’s home because her neighbouring tenants included travel agents and airline offices. But after 40 years of trade, a new era of Leigh Street Luggage was born.
Now a bespoke cocktail joint, the Leigh Street Luggage of 2023 is part of this new wave of small bars.
In the same way, Julie researched the vibe of Leigh Street in the ‘80s, current owners Robbie Behrad, Andrew Razzano, Shahin Chegini and Joshua Fileti have done exactly the same.
Today’s Leigh Street Luggage offers a range of curated wines and fascinating cocktails, including the crowd favourite Montenegro Spritz.
Without being too bitter, this spritz is light and fruity, tantalising with every sip, and is the perfect cocktail for spring’s warmer nights.
Pink Moon Saloon
21 Leigh Street
Pink Moon Saloon gets CityMag’s nod for best building on Leigh Street.
The bar sits inside a gorgeous construction that could be a ski lodge or a mid-western bar on the outskirts of a sleepy American town.
Immaculate vibes are what you get when you visit Pink Moon Saloon, but what you imbibe is as important.
The generous cocktail menu is one of the CBD’s best, boasting fresh takes on old favourites (don’t pass up on the Pink Moon Clover Club) and the bartenders know their way around an old fashioned or an espresso martini. Know your spirits? You’re in good company.
A treasure trove of niche and popular drops from around the world make up the back four pages of the bar’s drinks menu.
Don’t skip over Pink Moon Saloon next time you make Leigh Street your landing strip.