Write because you want to, not because you have to.
Published August 24th 2019
While you may not think of strolling down the infamous street of debauchery to find a sophisticated spot like Stem, co-owners Tom Paxton, Lachlan Farmer, Chris Farmer and Paul Barber have, over the last 12 or so months, transformed the former Caos Café site on Hindley Street into a versatile space that incorporates elements of a bar, a wine cellar, and a restaurant that hopes to give their customers with an experience that screams of elegance and exuberance.
If you are a regular at any of the bars down Peel / Leigh Streets, then you'll find yourself in a space that resonates strongly with those bars' characters, whilst still maintaining a level of originality through what Stem has on offer.
Their seating indoors and outdoors across Hindley and Register Streets can host up to 180 people at a time. The brutalist aesthetic shines through their mix of industrial and rustic elements, which blends effortlessly with the lush greenery and shrubbery (courtesy Emma Sadie Thomson), that has been carefully scattered throughout the little nooks of the space.
On their launch night, I was surprised to see a primarily older demographic of individuals but seeing how my friend and I were among the youngest to attend, we felt like we were in a playground, ready to explore the potential that Stem possesses. Personally, it was a challenge to think about the prospect of walking down Hindley Street (on a Friday night, nonetheless!) due to a number of past negative experiences, but given its location by the university, new Royal Adelaide Hospital, and the generally more vibrant West End of Hindley Street, the co-owners of Stem have carefully nestled themselves to be a prime spot that could attract people from a diverse demographic seamlessly. With so many popular and public spots surrounding the bar and restaurant, it's no wonder that I can see myself wanting to gather a couple of gal pals for a night of social drinks at Stem, while we take in the beauty of the architectural facets that have been installed to bring a sense of structural cohesion that is ready for and worth the admiration!
For a very brief moment, you almost forget where you are, thanks to the design and architectural elements, such as the off-white stoneware furniture, exposed copper-colored bricks, and dark timber walls, which are complemented by the forest green mural by Nicole Black. We arrived shortly after they opened and within a half hour, the place was packed to the brim and no matter what corner you glanced to, there were people talking, laughing, bonding, and engaging wholeheartedly in celebrating the very essence of Stem, which had a cozy and social vibe that was overflowing throughout the space.
Booths are set up by the entrance and further along by the kitchen, while the centre of the space includes a long communal table that is surrounded by several smaller, marble-top tables, which can accommodate groups of any size, but also give you the motivation to venture out of your comfort zone and meet new people in an inviting environment. There is a level of intimacy that has been achieved through their clever sectioning via grid fittings and their lush greenery, so it can serve as an excellent option for date night with that special someone. People-watching will also be a breeze and you can be rest assured that the hustle and bustle of this ever-growing hub of Hindley Street will serve with some memorable sights. For those looking for a bit more of a social hangout spot, definitely park yourselves towards the centre point, where you can enjoy a 180-degree view of this beautiful space and bask in the delicious options that grace their kitchen and bar.
Booths by the entrance (photo by Fatema Sitabkhan)
So what makes Stem more than "just another bar and restaurant"? Their grand, climate-controlled, walk-in cellar, of course! A roomy and spacious hole-in-the-wall that is illuminated in fluorescent lights to highlight over 1000 options of wine, the wine cellar will be hosting regular tastings and offerings of their delicious, fermented drops, which have been sourced from all around Australia and beyond.
The walk-in wine cellar (photo by Fatema Sitabkhan)
The menu, which has been curated by the collected efforts of Mike Proud (head chef), Jake Haughton (pizza chef), and Annika Carnie (sous chef), will treat customers to offerings of share plates in wholesome and generous sizes that will feed aplenty with much ease. On launch night, we had samplers of cured salmon, prosciutto, pickled cucumber and olives, and sourdough bread, but walking past the kitchen, we noticed the wood-fired ovens and were informed of how the menu will be packed with a range of flavours hailing from Spain, Italy, and Portugal, among the Mediterranean-inspired delicacies. So, it's going to be an exciting menu that is packed with options that would suit anyone and everyone (vegan-friendly and gluten-free options included)!