A brother-sister chef team and bartender-turned-baker have made Udaberri – now with 100% more brunch – the most interesting place to eat in the city right now.
Udabrunch is worth getting out of bed for
There’s no escaping it – Udaberri is a weird place to eat.
Adelaide’s number one destination for Tinder first-timers, botanical remixes of small-batch gins and bars built into shipping containers, was never meant to be a place to dine. But, for sure, Udaberri was always intended to be a great place to eat.
Udaberri pintxos y vino
11 Leigh Street, Adelaide 5000
Mon-Wed: 4pm – late
Thu-Fri: 11am – late
Sat-Sun: 6pm – late
The Basque region – where Udaberri was conceived – like greater Spain and Europe beyond uses food as a stipulation on liquor licenses rather than access to toilets (as they do here). Tapas, known as Pintxos in Basque country are served cheaply and sometimes at cost price as a way to responsibly serve (read: soak up) booze.
Udaberri on Leigh Street paved the way for Adelaide’s small bar license because it wanted to serve food in the Basque tradition – small plates over the bar – but was told by liquor licensing that only pubs and entertainment venues were allowed to serve food at a bar. In 2012 it was impossible to conceive a restaurant would ever expect its patrons to sit on stools at tall tables to eat (cough *Press cough, cough).
Six years since they transformed the Flight Centre on Leigh Street into Udaberri, Adelaide’s first small bar is remodelling and, indeed, refocusing its business model around the kitchen.
The bar has a new head chef in Perryn Gannon, returning from 18 years chefing in Amsterdam to take up the role. His sous chef is also his sister, Alix Gannon, previously of Iberia and Mount Lofty Ranges Vineyard. A brother-sister combination in a confined space with fire and knives reads like a recipe for disaster but the two are doing better than well in the kitchen.
The menu has been revamped and now displays the necessary seasonal sensitivity expected of serious food destinations.
Old favourites have been maintained while Perryn and Alix get to clearing out the pantry. There’s a sense of urgency in the pair as they describe Udaberri’s renewed emphasis on the backbone of Basque cuisine – quality ingredients.
“I don’t think the cheeses on our menu have changed since we opened,” says Alix. “We’re getting new cheeses,” Alix says. “We’re getting new olives next week,” she adds. These sort of changes won’t be visible on a printed menu but demonstrate a true commitment to building a better kitchen.
“The margins are smaller,” says Perryn on the subject of improving quality. “But Rob [Udaberri’s co-owner] is happy because we’re selling more food”.
Udaberri is selling more of everything across more hours of the day. Since going seven-days-a-week, the late-night bar has seen Sunday nights become their second largest for turnover and this month launched an ambitious brunch program – opening Thursday and Friday from 11AM.
Brunch in a bar? We couldn’t picture it but on the day CityMag arrives to taste test we see two familiar faces – staff from Bread & Bone and Shobosho – enjoying a decent meal before their long Friday shifts ahead.
The pair are tucking into an ocean trout rosti and txistorra (spanish sausage). There are two fantastic looking and large glasses of tomato juice before them. Udaberri is definitely serving Adelaide’s best bloody mary right now.
It’s a bizarre experience, visiting Udaberri by day. The furniture is all wrong for eating with a knife and fork and the food looks and tastes way too good to be coming out of a kitchen largely known for steak and fried potatoes. More than anything it feels like you’re dining in some sort of start up, a new business idea with a great core concept but a clunky interface.
“We’re measuring up and putting a new combi oven into the kitchen,” says Udaberri co-founder Rob Dinnen. Rob’s just arrived and it was his idea of selling fresh bread in the evenings that got Perryn and Alix thinking they should start doing brunch.
The combi oven is a convection and steam-powered oven excellent for baking.
It’s a huge investment, one Rob says will take the bar the best part of two years to pay off. A weird level of investment until you realise that Rob, a registered commercial real estate agent with a passion for bartending is currently training up at Uraidla as a baker.
“I got the idea from Chad Robertson of Tartine in SF [San Francisco],” says Rob. “Chad has this idea that we’ve got bread all wrong: We buy it fresh in the morning to make our toast but then want it fresh for our meal in the evening. Instead Chad went surfing in the morning and baked in the afternoon and sold his bread to commuters on their way home so they could have it hot and fresh for dinner and ready for toast in the morning.”
The changes at Udaberri sound sweeping but in reality they’ve always been part of the program in one of Adelaide’s most innovative small bars.
Whether it’s Alix and Perryn pushing and redefining the menu, Ben Walsh – Udaberri’s co-owner and head bartender – constantly elevating the drinks list or the founder of the business swapping 3AM finishes as a bartender for 4AM starts as a baker, this small bar has big ambition.
“More than anything, these changes are about our own personal development,” says Rob. “If you don’t evolve – you stagnate”.
And yeah, if you can’t expect your local Basque-inspired small bar to start baking fresh bread daily – are you even living in a proper city? We think not. Thank goodness for Udaberri.