In a venue that’s been faced with a few hurdles since it opened in 2019, including the quick entry and departure of various chefs and sommeliers, and ever-changing wine and dining concepts and menus, the only thing that’s remained consistent at Leigh Street Wine Room is the uber-chic interior, with its Euro-centric wine-bar vibe.

It’s been about a year since new owners took over and things seem to have settled down, with the recruitment of some top-notch hospo professionals to help shape things up. Chef Peter Orr leads a small team in the compact kitchen, dishing out an equally compact menu of only 12 dishes, plus a couple of desserts and cheese options. As the venue is promoted as more of a wine bar, this seems acceptable.

One of the dishes is blue swimmer crab risotto with marinated cherry tomatoes. Sounds delicious, but our 8pm reservation on a Saturday night is too late and they have run out tonight. Make that 11 dishes.

Fortunately, there are only two of us dining, so we proceed. The remainder of the menu makes sense and we’re told that it’s made for sharing, so ordering five dishes also seems to make sense. Our cross-section starts with kingfish in ponzu with shaved fennel and shitake. Four demure slices of fresh fillet soak up the nicely balanced, tart and salty ponzu sauce. Shaved fennel that might have been pickled lightly is piled on top. Hiding between are four tiny slivers of mushroom. I fight to find any hint of umami or flavour there, but overall, the dish is a nice enough start.

Kingfish in ponzu with shaved fennel and shitake.

Perfecting an omelette is at the crux of French cooking technique. Typically, an exterior sheet of tender egg should cradle a softly scrambled interior. Orr’s version is instead baked in a small cast-iron pan. It is delivered with similar consistency, aside from the (purposely) torched top, forming a light, almost caramelised crust. Just beneath is a scrambled centre, giving this a bit of a savoury crème brûlée feel. I wouldn’t rate this as the best omelette I’ve eaten (for the record, Bill Granger and his perfectly formed, creamy, breakfast version holds that place in my books) but it is quite good, and certainly unique as far as omelettes go, with some strong umami offered up by the mushroom taste that is definitely present in this one, and a nice pungent flavour courtesy of black garlic blobs that top each spoonful.

Next is celeriac, prepared two ways. First is a textural puree that coats the base of the dish. Fried (or perhaps roasted) cubes are then arranged in the centre and topped with poached pear slices. Toasted hazelnuts are scattered between and cured egg yolk is shaved over the lot. We had asked for this to arrive as a side to the lamb up next, but it arrives independently. While pleasant, it doesn’t offer quite enough punch to stand alone. Speaking of standing alone, this sharing concept only works when there’s enough in each dish to split, and while we’re far from starving, dishes so far seem more suited to one.

An unusual but tasty omelette preparation.

I remind myself that this is a wine bar first, and the wine so far has been top-notch, and I’m grateful for a new focus on approachable drinks, with some interesting drops in the mix.

The service has been top-notch, too. There is at least one familiar face on the floor: a qualified sommelier, former LSWR restaurant manager turned wine buyer and occasional waiter, Nicola. She’s weathered all the change in Leigh Street’s short history, coming up trumps as our main waiter for the night. If you’re lucky enough to have Nicola serve you while eating or drinking here, just let her make the wine choices – trust me on that one.

Tonight, it’s an Alsace Riesling by Domaine Bruno Sorg, a drier-style floral delight with minerality, and a Bobar Viognier from the Yarra Valley, a light and fresh textural wine with subtle creamy and fruity elements that hits all the right notes. Both are available by the glass but if you’re feeling thirsty, or a little more adventurous, the wine list features around 400 different bottles sourced from all corners of the globe.

Now, back to the lamb. One of only two mains on tonight’s menu, it’s finally an appropriately sized serving to share and, thankfully, worth waiting for. A dry spice rub coats a tender, perfectly cooked rump fillet, sliced to reveal its juicy pink interior. A thin layer of fat is nicely rendered and adds more succulence to the flavour-packed cut. Beneath the stack of meat is a savoury porridge made using fermented barley that has a meaty taste and is cooked just beyond al dente. The dish is finished with broccolini and anchovy fillets. It’s a home-style main turned up a few notches and easily the dish of the night.

Lamb, one of the few mains on the night our reviewer dined.

Dish number five is a dessert presented in a metal chalice: it’s panna cotta, but not as we know it. This version attempts to be some sort of sundae, with textural elements that compete for attention. There’s a crunchy olive oil crumble mixed with a silky yoghurty panna cotta, with some hidden bits of apple in there, too. The first few spoonfuls are good, with balanced levels of sweetness, but as the icey granita melts into the mix it all goes a bit watery. Without it, this dessert might be onto something.

With a couple of tweaks to dishes, some thought about portion size, and just a few more plates on the menu, LSWR will be back onto something, too. They’ve certainly got the team to make it happen.

Leigh Street Wine Room

9 Leigh Street, Adelaide SA 5000

Wednesday- Thursday 4-11pm
Friday- Saturday 4pm-midnight
Sunday 12-5pm
(08) 8100 5254

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