Stokehouse has a revered reputation as one of Melbourne’s premier restaurants. Sitting in a picturesque location just metres from the St Kilda beach shoreline, the two-storey venue boasts ocean views, a stunning menu, and beautifully designed interior eating spaces.
Three spaces make up the venue. The main floor-level eating space, dubbed Pontoon, hosts casual dining with a pub-like atmosphere. An 18m-long bar runs the length of the space, with benched seating and an abundance of windows providing uninterrupted views to St Kilda beach. Upstairs you’ll arrive at the fine dining restaurant. This area often hosts high profile events, from AFL Club dinners to the launch of the new BMW M5. The restaurant boasts the large oval Stokebar for drinks, a walk-in wine cellar, all-weather balcony, a 130-seat dining area, and a 40-seat private dining space called Palm Room. Finally, Paper Fish is Stokehouse’s takeaway fish & chips offering. It sits outside to the rear of Pontoon facing the beach and has a laid back eating area with wooden stools and benches.
In 2014 Stokehouse burnt down due to an unfortunate kitchen incident. Work soon began to rebuild the iconic restaurant, which presented an opportunity for it to reincarnate better than ever in every sense — including audio.
Each space has its own audio zone and coverage requirements. Pontoon hosts DJs from Thursday to Saturday nights, and the upstairs restaurant also needed the ability to cater for small bands, or speech-type presentations with clear audio throughout both spaces. Paper Fish needed low level background music in a discreet visual solution that matched the casual vibe of the outdoor space.
Jason Rooney from Eventcraft worked with the NAS Projects Team to design the ultimate audio system for the new Stokehouse.
d&b audiotechnik speakers were chosen for both the Pontoon and fine dining spaces. To compliment the look of the venue, the decision was made to go with ‘DJ trolleys’ in which three d&b 18S subwoofers are mounted. Two Y7P speakers hang from ceiling brackets at the far end of both areas for high quality reproduction of music and speech with the ability to throw the length of the room. d&b 5S speakers are neatly ceiling mounted on custom-made brackets throughout Pontoon, and the larger 8S speakers similarly nested inside ceiling cavities above the fine dining restaurant. For events, DJ performances, or speeches, these ceiling speakers act as time-delayed reinforcements for the Y7Ps to ensure intelligible sound is relayed to room’s far end with coherent phase. Both rooms were acoustically modelled with d&b’s ArrayCalc software to ensure ample audio coverage throughout.
d&b 5S speakers are similarly mounted in the bathroom areas, with the hallways of both floors covered by the smaller d&b 4S models.
Direct exposure to saltwater spray makes the Paper Fish eating area as harsh as it gets when it comes to speaker environments. NAS suggested the extremely weather-resistant SoundTube XT850 models to service this area. Not only does the XT850 do a great job handling tough outdoor atmospheres, its unique enclosure meant Jason could install the speakers discreetly between rocks and benches for better visual appeal.
Near the entrance you’ll find the rack room in which sits all the amplifiers and DSP control is on the ground floor near the entrance. Two d&b 30D amps drive the six 18S subwoofers on the DJ trolleys (three downstairs and three upstairs). The remaining d&b speakers (8S, 5S and 4S models) are powered by five d&b 10D amps running multiple zones. Delays were configured within the 10Ds themselves for each zone. Three InDesign BA2240 two-channel amplifiers run the SoundTube XT850 speakers in the Paper Fish and entrance areas, as well as some other IP-rated outdoor speakers covering the terrace and balcony.
Four inputs feed the DSP unit (iPod/DJ 1/DJ 2/dining), any of which can be independently routed to each zone. Restaurant staff have intuitive control over input levels in each zone via wall-mounted control panels.
The Stokehouse rebuild was a huge project — one of the most hotly anticipated restaurant fitouts in Australia in recent times. There are few venues of its kind that will go to such lengths for uncompromising sound. The owners, clients, and customers alike couldn’t be happier.
Trent Alexander, Project Manager for venue owner Van Haandel Group, is delighted with the final outcome. “We wanted a top-of-the-range system that could facilitate any client requirements without the need to bump in additional gear. The result is better than we expected. We’ve used it for weddings, launches, and other functions that require speeches. The system in Pontoon sounds great turned up when the DJs come in to play. Frank [Van Haandel, the Group boss] was pleasantly surprised at how rich and warm the sound was throughout the building. It’s very even coverage without hot spots and cold spots.”