Foodie paradise

Are you hungry? Mark Gleeson from the Providore with some bottled olive oil.
Are you hungry? Mark Gleeson from the Providore with some bottled olive oil. Photo: David Mariuz

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Pungent cheese, boiled lollies and the best seasonal produce is a feast for Kate Seamark.

The Adelaide Central Market is the largest fresh produce market in the southern hemisphere and home to over 80 extraordinarily delicious businesses. It hosts growers, makers and bakers, grinders, importers and purveyors but not a single chain store or franchise. It's been described as the heart of the city and "food Mecca".

Providore

To Adelaide "foodies", Mark Gleeson is the face of the Central Market. His passion for locally sourced, top quality gourmet products is reflected in his business endeavours which over the years have included the Grange Jetty Kiosk, Central Market Tours, luxury gourmet food safaris under the banner of Chefs Media and of course stall 66, The Providore.

There, Gleeson sells a range of baked delicacies - pies, cakes, biscuits, quiche and gateaux - sourced from various South Australian bakers. He also offers a chocolate fountain, where customers can buy strawberries, marshmallows or waffles and dip them into the velvety perfection of either milk or dark liquid chocolate.

The Providore is also the starting point for Gleeson's tours, during which he strolls through the market boulevards greeting regular shoppers and stallholders and delivering his affable insight into the history and culture of the Market.

Lucia’s

Lucia's Fine Food is the newest part of one family's food empire which started in the Central Market over 50 years ago. The family's original venture, Lucia's pizzeria and spaghetti bar, was set up by feisty Italian migrant, Lucia Rosella, in 1959 and the menu has remained largely unchanged. Today Lucia's daughters, Nicci and Maria, prepare pizza, pasta and coffee exactly how their mother taught them and her grandmother before that.

Lucia's Fine Foods offers take-home versions of Lucia's traditional recipes, like bottled Napoletana and Arrabiata sauces, passata, sambal and pizza sauce as well as the family's own olive oils and vinegars.

The refrigerated section is packed to the brim at the beginning of the day with lasagne and cannelloni trays, meatballs, soups, stocks, fresh sauces and pastas, but you have to be quick to beat the locals as some items sell out before midday!

The Smelly Cheese Shop

In bustling lane three is a stall whose name really says it all: The Smelly Cheese Shop. The Smelly Cheese Shop's buyers travel to France, Italy, Switzerland and Spain to source the finest cheeses they can get their hands on, buying direct from the cheese makers and the world's best affineurs.

The Smelly Cheese Shop's Lynda Grace explains that an affineur buys products when they have been newly made and then ripens them to their best possible flavour. "Some of our affineurs are third or fourth generation - they really know when a cheese is at its peak," she says.

Amongst their latest offerings, Grace recommends both roquefort and camembert which have been "ripened to perfection" by Herve Mons, as well as "the most beautiful" dolce and piccante gorgonzolas from Italian affineur Luigi Guffanti.

Grace believes that The Smelly Cheese Shop's popularity is largely due to the fact that everyone is welcome to taste their products.

The Pure Water Shop

On the far western side of the market is the Pure Water Shop. The shop has been there for over a decade and shop owner, Paul Pearce, says they have quite a cult following.

On market days it's not unusual to see the Pure Water Shop's devoted clients arrive with several empty 20 litre drums strapped to a trolley and leave shortly afterwards straining under the weight of their containers.

But it is no ordinary water, Pearce explains. "Clients can choose between standard - reverse osmosis ultra-purified water - or super - which has been purified and then charged using our eco-vortek system." The eco-vortek system "energises" water.

If all you want is a quick drink, try the Pure Water Shop's water by the cup available for just 20c a pop.

The Old Lady Shop

Stall 33 has been the home of Adelaide's most colourful lolly displays since 1906 when it was home to Blackeby's Sweets. These days it is called The Old Lolly Shop and is the Central Market's one and only lolly specialist.

Stall owner, Andrea Lomas, says her clientele love the traditional range of sweets which come direct from the Adelaide-based Blackeby's factory. "Everyone remembers the boiled lolly fish from their own childhood. They're still made to the same recipe," she says.

The stall also stocks a range of imported confectionery and soft drinks.

Lomas says that her customers are a mixture between interested passers by and regulars.

There are also mums and dads who bring the kids for a treat after the shopping is done, as well as the parents who unashamedly buy bribes for their children. "Mums with buggies come during the week and buy a little bag of lollies for their children so they can do their shopping in peace," Lomas says.

Zeds Cafe

Zedz Café is tucked in a cosy corner of the market. Zedz Café owner, Franjo Novosel, shops the market for the best buys and newest ingredients before planning his daily menu.

You can expect ingredients like shaved fennel and blood oranges to be worked into a delicious salad, or bright nasturtium flowers to feature with walnuts, potato and olives all topped with a nasturtium leaf pesto. "Someone travelled 100 miles when they heard I was making stinging nettle soup, and asked for the recipe," Novosel says. Ever keen to share his passion for food, Novosel sat down with his customer over coffee and wrote out his recipe.

Zedz also make world-class coffee, a wide range of fresh juices and desserts. "I've been doing a flourless blood orange cake lately as well as carob and pear tart which is really popular," Novosel says.

South Australia Experiences is published by Fairfax Media in conjunction with South Australia Tourism Commission. Details are correct at the time of publication and may be subject to change. All writers travelled courtesy of SATC.

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