There has been quite a lot of discussion in the arts and planning sectors in Adelaide centring around certain key terms – renewal, vibrancy – and it almost always ends up at small bars. Licensing regulations still obstruct the development of a thriving small bar culture in Adelaide; however, there is certainly a thriving demand. Udaberri – the Basque word for ‘spring’, so we’re told – has just opened across the road from the similarly Spanish-themed Casablabla, at the western end of fancy cobbled Leigh Street. Udaberri operates like a stripped-down version of its larger cousin – no mains, no fishtank, no dance lessons. It’s minimalist, and it’s beautifully small. By 8pm on a Friday in its first month, the place was packed and a large queue had formed out the front door.
It can be difficult to get a real sense of a place when it is at maximum capacity. For one thing, on a quieter night, the staff may not have been run quite so ragged. The room is centred around one long bar with a narrow corridor, which on the night in question was entirely given over to the crowd – staff had to scream ‘excuse me!’ every few seconds to part the seas of happy drinkers. Getting drinks was therefore something of a challenge (no fault, of course, of the lovely staff). Once Time Out did get to the bar, we were presented with a menu including wine, beer, spirits and tapas. Enquiries were made about cocktails, which are available but not advertised. It’s not hard to see why – there’s no space behind the bar to effectively make them. We ordered a negroni ($14) on a friend’s recommendation, and it was strong, tangy and delicious. But we felt bad making our bartender crawl and climb to find all its ingredients, and then use a two-centimetre section of bar in order to prepare its gin, vermouth rosso and Campari goodness.
The place really looks awesome. It’s all wiry light fittings, suspended pot plants, and up on the small mezzanine area there’s even one wall covered in bathroom tiles. The wooden beams above the bar are both structurally and aesthetically exciting. A DJ was playing some deep cuts of 1970s funk, and there was even the hint of some dancing downstairs (it was early – the party was just beginning). Once the buzz cools down, Udaberri will turn into a truly excellent place to get a glass of Spanish wine and some finger food, and maybe shake a little booty. It’s a stellar example of everything Adelaide can offer, and will hopefully be the first in a long line.