Returning to Adelaide means coming home in more than one sense to Tamara Spark and Adam Rocco, who hail originally from Adelaide. Having grown their experience in Melbourne’s thriving restaurant scene, the couple returned to their hometown to launch their first restaurant, Local Grind.
Perched just inside The Watson in Walkerville, the restaurant feels like it’s been there for years, with rustic interiors (the ‘Door Mural’ is upcycling at its finest) and fresh flavours that cater to health nuts and brunchers alike.
We spoke to Adam about his own journey in coming back to Adelaide, his passion for celebrating local and ethical producers and why South Australia offers up the ultimate foodie experience.
What took you to Melbourne in the first place, and what brought you back?
For us Melbourne was all about pushing ourselves, the food scene they have is incredible and the busy city was exactly what we wanted, and kept us on our toes every day.
You can’t sit stagnant around Melbourne, or you’ll become old news very fast and that really motivated us to do as much as we could and experience the city in our own way.
We’ll continue to be regular visitors to Melbourne, but Adelaide is home. We win greatly on produce here, the wine is world status and there's plenty of other things to experiment with – it’s a great place to live and work.
What has the process been like setting up your own outpost after working in other establishments?
We had always dreamed of this, but nothing will prepare you when you decide to open your own restaurant. As an old chef of mine told me “If you’re waiting for builders to build, you will be disorganised upon opening” – and how true that now seems!
The pressure to go from completed restaurant to open is huge, and it’s all the hard work done in the weeks leading up to it that pay off. The basics will always be the same in a restaurant, but as we work on such small margins, every detail counts.
All in all though, the set up of the restaurant was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done!
What has surprised you most about Adelaide since you’ve been back?
The food scene has really opened up. There are so many great places, and lots of national reviewers are starting to venture in. Local chefs are also getting much better recognition in Adelaide.
My biggest surprise was how the footy in the city has drummed up such a huge amount of tourism, which is fantastic on all levels. Maybe we are no longer the little sleepy town?
What are some of Adelaide’s hidden treasures?
I’ve always said this... Adelaide is the hidden treasure!
There’s a lot to discover in Adelaide – from the a fantastic farmers market in Mt Pleasant with all local producers offering real fruit and vegies, to tiny Bed & Breakfasts in the wine regions like McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley to eating fresh seafood on the beach.
In the city there are several pop-up bars starting to take place, I’ve heard of one coming soon that will be sitting on sand right between city buildings. Quirky places like this are perfect for an after work drink and snack.
How has the reception of Local Grind been so far?
The reception has been unreal, which I think reflects the way we work being a bit different to other venues, with our focus on locally produced, ethically sourced food.
Working alongside APG has been great, the way they work is always for the end result being the best it can be for the client, and this is exactly what we are about.
You're passionate about sourcing locally produced ingredients. Why is this important to Local Grind and how does it elevate the restaurant’s offering?
I often get asked what we do differently, and put simply our offering is just ethically raised, good food cooked well. There is no secret.
The fact is in South Australia we actually do produce almost everything and if it hasn’t always been widely known I believe people are interested to know exactly what we have, and how it stacks up to the common everyday produce. I just do not understand why people are happy to use a fruit that has literally come from half way around the globe.
Customers really enjoy eating something they know, or have been on a trip down near where it was raised and this interaction is what makes me happy.
My long term dream is to fire up a Summer Sunday event out front of the establishment, cooking up a few treats on a wood fire grill and enjoying the park surrounds with good company.
Local Grind is open for breakfast and lunch every day of the week, and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. Stop by when you visit The Watson in Adelaide, or keep posted on their updates through their Facebook page.