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April 17, 2019

Stem to open in the old Caos Café on Hindley Street

New wine bar and restaurant Stem is bringing a Mediterranean kitchen and Sans-Arc fit out to the forgotten Hindley Street relic Caos Café.

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  • Words and pictures: Johnny von Einem

For the last two years, a ramshackle Hindley Street frontage, formerly known as Caos Café, has sat dormant – a vacant 300 square metres of untapped potential on the edge of the redeveloped university district.

Back in October, a newly formed hospitality collective of Tom Paxton, Lachlan Farmer, Chris Farmer and Paul Barber bought the space, and by mid-2019 bar and restaurant Stem Bar and Restaurant will debut in the West End.


Stem is slated to open by mid-year. Stay tuned to CityMag for updates as the project develops.

Connect with the business on Facebook.

With Sans-Arc on design, Stem will seat 180 people inside and out, with the building reoriented to favour its Register Street façade. Tom, who is a former co-owner of Bank Street Social and now co-owner of Stem, says the fit out will deliberately “blur the line as much as we can between outside and inside.”

“There’ll be this really beautiful, green, fixed seating and awning structure with the main front doors central on the Register Street facing. We’re trying to engender this al fresco eating and drinking outside vibe as much as we can,” he says.

“Aesthetically, it’s going to be a lot of concrete and a lot of structural, fixed concrete planters and booths, with a lot of indoor greenery and a lot of light from the big sky lights.”

L-R: Stem’s co-founders Lachlan Farmer, Tom Paxton, Paul Barber and Chris Farmer


In the ’70s and ’80s, the space was the home of Zorba’s Taverna, a Greek restaurant known equally for its food and festive revelry, but the building’s heritage dates back further to the early 20th century as an auto-repair shop. The Sans-Arc team is excited to play within the stripped-back warehouse shell.

“The history of the building – both old and new – inspired us to draw upon its relic nature,” Sans-Arc’s Sam Cooper says, leading to “a brutalist aesthetic inspired by forgotten and overgrown ruins.

“Contrasting the raw nature of the building will be more comfortable materials and spaces, ensuring a nice environment for dining and boozing – plenty of spots for settling in for the evening.”

Carlo Jensen of Peculiar Familia has been drafted for Stem’s brand identity, and the team is also scouting an artist to introduce a mural to the space.

Details on the kitchen and front-of-house team are yet to be released, but Tom hints at a pizza oven being installed and promises “a broad range of dishes, Mediterranean with a few Spanish, Portuguese influences. There’ll be a lot of pasta and pizza coming out of the kitchen.”

“We’re super psyched about who we’ve got, and we’ll be able to tell you in a few months,” Tom says.

While the kitchen will have a substantial output, Tom stresses Stem will be more bar than restaurant, with a walk-in wine cellar taking up significant real estate in the southeastern corner of the venue.

“There’ll be nice wine flying around that isn’t really up this end of town otherwise, so that’s exciting,” Tom says.

The location is also of particular interest to the Stem crew – among the four partners involved, Tom and co-owner Lachlan Farmer are doctors and both have close ties to the RAH.

“The proximity of the venue to the UniSA City West Campus is also a real strength – we’re pumped to put together a classy offering equally suited to students, hospital staff, and anyone who makes their way down to the revitalised West End,” Tom says.

The build is only now in its earliest stages, with a more concrete opening date to be set in the coming months. Stay tuned to CityMag for updates as the project develops.

Views of Lisa King’s Jive mural from Stem’s Hindley Street frontage

Stem Bar and Restaurant

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