There’s a new incarnation of social clubs. We’re not talking about those hideously stuffy fraternities where cigar-smoking, social-climbing corporate types used to congregate after work to escape suicide hour. Quite the contrary. These new-gen members’ clubs are where creative types hang out, to exchange ideas and shoot the breeze. One such spot is The Stack – a chic brasserie and bar downstairs with a thoroughly modern members’ club upstairs – housed in the historic Leinster Hall in Gardens.
THE BACK STORY
The original Stack was opened by hotelier Nigel Pace and his interior-designer wife Sarah Ord in July 2015, and it had not been open for a week, when a blazing inferno gutted its insides. “We stood there and watched our carefully selected antique furniture, historical books, top-of-the-range appliances, customised art and decor that we’d spent months collating burn,” recalls Sarah. “But while the firemen rushed around, there was this moment when we turned to each other and swore we would do it again.”
Eleven months later, in June 2016, Sarah and Nigel introduced The Stack to the public for the second time. Part private-members’ club and part public brasserie and bar, the stylish space pokes fun at gentlemen’s clubs of yore in quirky and offbeat ways. Flipflop Fred, for example, is a technicoloured trophy head made from recycled slip-slops that presides over the upstairs lounge. Sarah’s excellent taste and inimitable eye for putting seemingly incongruent colours and patterns together has resulted in a glam yet cosy common room that’s fresh and traditional all at once.
Downstairs is a ritzy bar, a luxuriously pared-down brasserie and a deep verandah with Paris café chairs and tables, perfect for a sunset G&T. Add some jazzy house beats (Sarah Vaughan remixed, anyone?), and you’ll never want to leave.
Nigel’s decades of hospitality experience (Singita, Cape Grace, The Plettenberg, and so on) is evident in every last polished sconce. The gregarious Malta-born hotelier exudes warmth and humour that permeate the entire place, and it feels like he’s brought the best aspects of all the places he’s worked at and travelled to to his new venture. From the rosettes on the barmen’s waistcoats to the tablets on which the wait staff take your orders, to the bold flower arrangements (courtesy of Sarah’s mother) and the (choice and volume of) background music, everything has been carefully conceived and it all hangs together beautifully.
“It’s comfortable with great lighting and proper, hearty French fare,” says Nigel. “No smears, no froths, no strangled ingredients,” he adds with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. The kitchen is headed by Jason Kosmas (who earned his stripes as head chef at the award-winning Chefs Warehouse & Canteen), and his menu features a daily quiche du jour. On the night we were there, it was Fresh Cheese Quiche with baby leaves, cured onion and cucumber in a lemon vinaigrette.
YOUR GO-TO LOCAL
The menu items are reasonably priced. We had Beef Tartare (R105) and Tuna Niçoise (R105) to start, steak frites (R180 for 300g of sirloin) and Onion Tart (R125) for mains, with sides of Charred Broccoli and Yogurt (R35) and Wilted Greens in garlic and olive oil (R45). Our crème brûlée came to the table in one of those old-school copper pans – so chic. (Check out the brasserie menu here.)
The Stack’s downstairs bar is cosy, luxe, glam and hip in the same breath – there’s no room for air-kissers or fronters here; just regular people after a top-drawer tipple and a jolly good time. The bar staff muddle the cunningist cocktails – hit them with your taste preference and they’ll pull something out of the bag. Or, keep it simple with a scotch and soda, while toe-tapping to the latest lounge-house beats.