Destination, cool

It's young and hip, with independent retailers outside the mainstream," says Kate Tomkins of Ebenezer Place, a narrow laneway lined with small offbeat shops in Adelaide's central business district. "We're all friends, we hang out with a coffee in the morning or a beer after work," she says. "It's unique in Adelaide."

This laneway has a special vibe, which evolved after an old fruit-and-vegetable market on this location closed. The market's spacious interior was redeveloped into modern apartments and neat, intersecting streets, including this one.

As a managed laneway, it's a little less grimy and unpredictable than Melbourne's equivalents. But what it lacks in grit, Ebenezer Place has in street cred. Tomkins' shop, Midwest Trader, sells hard-core, punk-rock and rockabilly gear to the cool, music-loving folk of Adelaide.

Across the way is Tomkins and rockabilly musician Jad Green's second store, Old Midwest. Its vintage stock includes weathered leather jackets that are from the 1950s and '60s and sell from $150 to $350, and worn-in cowboy boots.

Down the end of the lane, where it dog-legs left towards Rundle Street, I step up onto a paved brick terrace. There's a sculpture here featuring a rack of cauliflowers thrusting out of the ground.

To one side is the Belgian Beer Cafe, on the other is the cafe Nano. Ducking inside for a late breakfast, I find a modern take on the classic Italian cafe — a big airy space with exposed pipes above, offset by a big splash of buttercup yellow along the curving bar.

I can see the traditional South Australian "doorstop" on the menu, but I'm after something fancier than a thick slice of bread with a topping, and find it in the carozza, Nano's signature breakfast dish ($12.30). It's composed of egg, mozzarella, pancetta and a heaping of sugo on toasted Italian bread, and it's tangy and excellent.

Thus replenished, I resume my trawl of the shops and drop into specialist jeans outlet RHD. Nothing here is likely to fit me but that's probably for the best, as the shop's selection of Japanese jeans made in homage to classic American styles ranges from $260 to $395.

They're special denims, though, says shop owner Andy Watson as he shows me the chain-stitch machine used to re-hem the garments to order.

"I used to restore old American muscle cars," he adds. "The jeans go with that."

I'm looking for coffee, and Sad Cafe is the obvious place to find it. Despite the name, this cafe is a mellow space full of bearded hipsters lounging at scuffed timber tables beneath cases of brightly coloured insects. The menu is a spread of innovative sandwiches, including brie and apple with baby spinach and Bavarian mustard ($8.50).

This is all pretty stylish, and Ebenezer Place is turning out to be a fun place to spend time.

Has Adelaide become cooler over the years? I ask Tomkins later. "Not really," she laughs. "But that's what this street is trying to do."

THE FACTS

WHERE Ebenezer Place runs between Union  and Rundle  streets  in the east of Adelaide’s CBD. It’s named after the famous Ebenezer Place in Wick, Scotland, which is only two metres long.

STAY Mantra Hindmarsh Square, 55 Hindmarsh Square. Rooms from $149 a night in a comfortable, modern hotel with an accomplished restaurant; (08)84123333, mantrahindmarshsquare.com.au.
Rendezvous Grand Hotel, 55 Waymouth Street. Centrally located rooms from $209 a night; (08) 81158888, rendezvoushotels.com/adelaide.

Tim Richards travelled courtesy of Great Southern Rail.

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