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February 15, 2024

Stem on Hindley Street reinvents itself as a destination

A new chef and venue manager has Stem mixing things up for owners Christopher and Vicki Farmer. 

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  • Words: Claudia Dichiera
  • Pictures: Matisse Chambers
  • First picture L—R: Christopher Farmer, Cain King and Alex Kelly

It’s a dance to get past the plants lining the way through the restaurant at Stem down to the cellar.

Hot from our walk to the city’s West End on a 30C day, the cellar instantly cools us – a perfect temperature for storing bottles of wine.


188 Hindley Street, Adelaide 5000
Wed & Thu: 12pm ’til 10pm
Fri & Sat: 12pm ’til 11pm


It’s here where we meet Stem owners Christopher and Vicki Farmer and begin our tour of the multifaceted restaurant.

Stem has six different dining spaces – group booths, the central communal table, a riser that looks over the kitchen, private dining room, cellar and outdoor seating – with each space a different experience.

“We want the space to appeal in various ways. We didn’t want something that just is one thing – we wanted people to be able to experience different settings depending on what they were there for,” Christopher says.

“If you want an intimate setting, we can provide it. If you want a casual setting, we can provide it. If you want a formal setting, we can provide it.

“We try to offer a variety that integrates and as a whole, so that when you look at it, you go the whole thing is beautiful but you can use bits of it differently.”

The light feature in the private dining room


Christopher and Vicki saw the departure of their head chef as a chance to change how the menu worked after opening in 2019. 

“We came from a particularly strong Italian style, but we’ve now decided to just be more flexible about that so that we can then flex into vegetarian or vegan foods without needing to worry about whether that’s correct Italian,” Christopher says. 

Before taking on the role as head chef of Stem last October, Cain King saw improvements that could be made to the menu and wanted to make it cohesive with the vibe of the restaurant. 

“I came here and it was quite a limited offering. As you can see, it’s a beautiful, upmarket venue and they were serving $20 pizzas and doing pastas and stuff,” Cain says. 

“I was like, oh, I feel like the food could improve… it’s just a shame to have people come in and order a pizza. Just a bit like, oh okay, that’s random.”

When Cain was discussing these potential improvements with Christopher and Vicki, they told him Stem was “Mediterrannean by accident”. 

“It was never destined to be a Mediterranean restaurant, it was just the two past head chefs came from a lot of Mediterranean restaurants and that was their style,” Cain says. 

“I was like, alright cool, let’s distance ourselves from that and do whatever is fresh and trendy and move into more of that modern Australian – kind of whatever goes which has been good.”

Peaches (ft. Daniel Caesar, Giveon) by Justin Bieber


Cain says he has changed “pretty much everything”.  

Vicki’s favourite new menu item is the lobster sando with Wonder White bread, dill, lemon and a beer-battered lobster which Cain says is “pretty random”. 

“I’ve also got the peaches… we just grill those in the wood oven, get it to 500 degrees – it’s like blisteringly hot – dress them in some apple cider vinegar and just quickly flash them so they’re still nice and firm inside but they start to char up and burn to get that caramelisation,” Cain says. 

“The scallops have just been diced up so they’re all raw, it’s a super crisp and clean flavour and then the butteriness of the scallops gets emulsified in it and then the caviar on top.”

These changes include the way Cain uses the equipment, including the wood oven (since pizzas are permanently off the menu) and the chargrill as using fire is in his cooking ethos. 

Confirmed: scallops, oysters, and a lobster sando are a great pairing


This new menu, along with new venue manager Alex Kelly, has made the restaurant more relaxed; changes Christopher describes as “something you feel more than you can express”. 

“Often people won’t put a lot of money into the internals and the designs – it’s a very expensive thing to do – but I think that loses the beauty and the intimacy of the restaurant,” Christopher says while ‘One Of Your Girls’ by Troye Sivan plays in the background. 

“So we decided that we would make this place into an experience.”

Christopher is a retired doctor and Vicki a retired dentist, with Stem their first bite at the hospo industry. What they lacked in experience, they made up for in passion. 

“Many of our greatest memories have been socialising, eating, drinking in beautiful settings in different parts of the world,” Christopher says. 

“Some on the really cheap side, like a back alley cafe in Piraeus in Athens… just rough simple foods [but] stunning, all the way up to Michelin three-star.

“But the experience feels the same – you get this wonderful blend of gorgeous atmospheres, and we’re devoted to that idea.”

Stem is located at 188 Hindley Street and is open Wednesday and Thursday from 12pm until 10pm, then Friday and Saturday from 12pm until 11pm.

Bookings can be made through the website.

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