Best of est | Melbourne Hospitality Destinations

  • Step inside five design-centric places to eat and drink around Melbourne.

    Flack Studio, IF Architecture, Ewert Leaf, Hassell and RITZ&GHOUGASSIAN are industry leaders in hospitality design. Each has left their mark on Melbourne’s booming culinary scene in the past year with new and unique design-centric venues. In this five-stop tour, we visit a marble-rich cafe in South Melbourne, an evocative wine bar in Armadale, an Art Deco-inspired restaurant in Balaclava, an experimental pizzeria in Carlton and an agrarian-infused eatery in McKinnon; getting a taste of what this vibrant city has to offer. 

    Square and Compass by Flack Studio | Photography by Anson Smart

    Square and Compass by Flack Studio | Photography by Anson Smart

    Square and Compass

    Flack Studio

    In assembling Square and Compass in South Melbourne, the sibling to the beloved East Melbourne cafe, Flack Studio paid tribute to the great Italian architect Carlo Scarpa and his renowned Querini Stampalia project. The cafe’s patterned marble floor is modelled off the lobby floor of the 20th-century building; an amalgamation of burnt orange, mahogany and ivory. While the crux of the interiors comprises these rich marble tones, there are several instances of contrast – royal blue lacquer, olive-green suede, maroon leather and timber veneer – that create an explosive, vibrant palette.

    The brief was to create a space of longevity and nostalgia by referencing 20th-century Italy and incorporating elements from the contemporary. Notable lighting fixtures include the Flos Taraxacum pendant designed in 1960 by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni and the Flos Foglio wall lamp designed in 1966 by Tobia Scarpa; subtle nods to more Italian greats.

    Auterra Wine Bar

    IF Architecture

    Auterra, meaning ‘of the earth’, is a celebration of wine and its varying complexities. The interiors, designed by IF Architecture, are informed by the natural pigments of the grapes; the palette slowly transitions from deep reds and burgundies, to blush pinks and oranges, and finally to sparkling yellows. “This sense of exploration ignites a sensory experience; an escape of sorts, into the world of wine,” IF Architecture founder Iva Foschia says. Hero materials include Australian hardwoods, copper and brass; materials that will age like a fine bottle of wine.

    Auterra is intended as a warm and welcoming neighbourhood bar; a casual yet refined destination for local wine lovers. Expressed as a visual gradient of colour, texture and light, the space deeply considers the role of one’s physical environment in elevating the dining experience. “Its vibrant and fresh character is married with a feeling that it has always been there; that it belongs there,” Iva says.

    Auterra by IF Architecture | Photography by Sharyn Cairns

    Auterra by IF Architecture | Photography by Sharyn Cairns


    Ewert Leaf

    For a Chinese restaurant in Balaclava, Ewert Leaf lifted inspiration from the 1920s Art Deco movement in Shanghai and modern Chinese architectural forms. “We were curious as to how we could layer unique materials to create contrast between texture and colour, and between hard and soft,” Ewert Leaf associate director Ana Calic says.

    Hammered glass harmonises with intricate tiles and dark timber floors, while vinyl and onyx clad the various surfaces. The curved metalwork on the doors and kitchen wall, as well as the entryway, is a nod to classic Art Deco architecture. The frequent use of fiery colours – burnt orange and vibrant red – ties in with the restaurant’s theme, paying homage to Chinese culture.

    A cluster of sphere-shaped pendants hang from the ceiling in the main dining area – Moon-house – coating the interiors in perpetual warmth. This warmth can be felt from the street, where the interiors project a soft orange glow.

    Moonhouse by Ewert Leaf | Photography by Jack Lovel

    Moonhouse by Ewert Leaf | Photography by Jack Lovel

    Moonhouse by Ewert Leaf | Photography by Jack Lovel

    Di Stasio Carlton


    With a design driven by instinct, not fashion, Di Stasio Carlton marks the third restaurant for the Di Stasio team. The team once again engaged Hassell to oversee the interiors (Hassell designed their flagship restaurant in the CBD in 2019), who have opted for an experimental, ‘design as you go’ kind of approach, aiming to create an ultra-unique ‘dining escapade’. “We worked without precedent,” Hassell senior associate Di Ritter says.

    “Theatrical”, “exaggerated”, “unconventional”, “a semi-nostalgic escape”; first-timers won’t quite know what to expect. Colour and art is a running theme; three large artworks by Aboriginal artist Reko Rennie create intensity and edge, while a series of light installations cast moody shadows in the corridors. Outside, a courtyard evokes memories of Italian gardens in Melbourne in the 1960s; a special request from the client. “There is a sense of adventure passing through the various spaces and finally landing in an outdoor oasis,” Di says.



    In designing a space for Juno, an eatery and retail space in McKinnon, RITZ&GHOUGASSIAN sought to first understand the origins of what was on the plate. “Looking to the farming landscapes, we saw fibreglass and galvanised sheds, stainless steel equipment and timber framing, which ultimately formed our design language,” co-founder Gilad Ritz says.

    Transparent fibreglass panels line the eatery; their milky texture creating softness and depth. Light-toned timber joinery, furniture and floors accentuate a rustic, natural feel, while concrete pillars and floors add a brutalist touch. The fibreglass panels trap and reflect natural light throughout the day thanks to wrap-around windows, creating a shimmering effect across the entire space.

    Juno by RITZ&GHOUGASSIAN | Photography by Tom Ross

    Juno by RITZ&GHOUGASSIAN | Photography by Tom Ross

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