While pared back aesthetics and vintage designs continue to be the go-to look for new hospitality and retail fit-outs, design studio loopcreative decided to bring a sophisticated corporate ambience back to the mix for a new dining venue in Melbourne.
Owned by the Walker Evans Baker Restaurant Group, led in part by My Kitchen Rules celebrity chef Pete Evans and Gavin Baker, an ex-FatDuck junior sous chef, Chiara is a 150 seat Italian restaurant and bar on 705 Collins Street with a separate wine cellar and private dining room for 16.
Contained within the ground floor of the Lantern Building, which is part of the heritage listed Goods Shed North redevelopment in Docklands, the $5 million restaurant had to include a state-of-the-art production and catering kitchen, and incorporate high-quality finishes that are tailored to Collins Square blue chip clients and the greater Melbourne community.
“When we first spoke to the client, we talked about Chiara being a space that felt like it had always been part of the Melbourne fabric. It was important for it to not feel too themed, but feel sophisticated and be a natural gateway to the Collins Square development,” says Rod Faucheux, director of loopcreative.
“We wanted the materials to be honest to their surface without the need for too much adorned decoration. If it didn’t look like it shouldn’t be there, then it didn’t stay.”
Going for a warm sophisticated palette that allows the integrity of materials to remain intact, the team chose oak parquetry flooring, inset carpets by Designer rugs, and a Catherine Martin designed feature wallpaper. Suspended saucer bar lights from UK firm Established & Sons complement Workstead’s perimeter pendants, while micaceous paint (the Harbour Bridge paint) was used for all the steelwork.
To add to the feel of the space, aged bronze was chosen for the 20-seat bar, and the custom built leather banquettes in the main dining area are styled based on an old car seat with similar stitching and proportions. These are joined by classic Thonet Bentwood chairs with Italian marble tabletops and imported leather Space Furniture chairs.
Because of issues with the ceiling and floor levels, the team incorporated an aged mirror ceiling to the majority of the space, providing patrons with the perception of a dramatic six metre high ceiling space.
“There is an obvious corporate overtone to this space and it's no hipster kool-aid fit out. There is no 'vintage found design' like the majority of other new fit-outs being carried out, we wanted something sophisticated and approachable like the people that inhabit Collins Square,” says Faucheux.
On the second floor a 400sqm production and catering kitchen is visible from the street through a series of steel windows. There is also a main cook line where Gavin Baker and Pete Evans can conduct demonstration classes.