Standing proud on the corner of East Terrace and Rundle Street, The Stag Public House holds one of South Australia’s oldest hotel licenses.
Steeped in history and status, the venue has undergone many incarnations, most recently a revival at the hands of Oliver Brown and Joshua Talbot. “It would be easy for us to get caught up in what has or hasn’t been done with the space, so we decided to remove that from our focus,” Oliver says.
“[Instead] it’s about creating a space that we would want to go to, a space that supports the local community and in turn they support it back,” he explains. “It shouldn’t matter whether you’re dropping in for a quick mid-strength schooner with the old man or settling in for Friday night drinks with the girls, we want everyone to feel comfortable and welcome”.
At its core, the new look Stag is informed by the traditional Australian pub. “For us this project was about creating a space that we would love to spend time in, it was about creating an environment that was true to the classic Aussie pub,” says Oliver. “[We] wanted to prove that a good, honest pub still has a place in Adelaide.”
Inside, Oliver describes the space as “modernly authentic”. While the pub’s exterior remains a time capsule of venues gone by, the interior exudes the sense of warmth and purpose thanks to rich wooden tones and a careful division of space.
Working with designer, Sans-Arc Design to “bring the pub back while bringing it forward”. Details lean into an emphasis on community, with works by local artists and classic Australian sports memorabilia throughout.
As expected, traditional pub grub features throughout the menu, elevated under the careful guise of head chef Justin Penman. Characterised as “classic and fresh”, everything is made in house, “[the] chips are hand cut and schnittys are hand crumbed,” says Oliver.
The iconic South Australian Pie Floater is a stand out, elevated from its kitschy status by stout-braised beef filling and creamy pea purée.
Another favourite, the Cob Loaf sees sourdough served warm and filled with spinach and sour cream. “If you’re after the perfect little sharing dish over a few cold schooners, nothing beats a Cob,” says Oliver.
On the taps, The Stag’s drinks list is an opportunity for broadening horizons. “This is the perfect platform to introduce people to new drinks,” explains Oliver. The Soda Pops are a must, think Pineapple and Jalapeno, Miso Wattleseed Cola or Mandarin and Ginger mixed with your choice of spirit and topped with soda.
Another new venture, Charlick’s Restaurant, sits adjacent sharing a roof but diverging in offerings. “This is a really exciting space as we haven’t ever really delivered a service or style like this,” explains Oliver.
Under the direction of Claire Kneebone, Charlick’s is striking. Matte green subway tiles line the central communal bar, contrasting the otherwise entirely burgundy space. Booth seating promotes intimate group dining, leaning into the venue’s familial ambiance. “The fit out is meant to represent sitting around the family dinner table, except that the chef has worked at some of the world’s best restaurants,” says Oliver.
Said chef is Blake Drinkwater, formerly of Orana, Noma and Attica. Presenting a menu unrestricted by cuisine, Blake takes inspiration from everywhere, working with the seasons to champion fresh ingredients.
Expect Duck Egg Ravioli with burnt butter and sage, and King George Whiting with roasted Cipollini onions, corn, preserved lemon, parsley and chicken glaze. As with any family dinner table, sharing is encouraged as “there are too many amazing flavours not to get a little bit of everything,” says Oliver.
Photography by Meaghan Coles.