design: Giant Design
furniture: Custom Tables & Bench seat by Giant Design & Contractor (Reliable Shopfitting), Sounds Like Home, Café Ideas, La Maison, Boyd Blue
lighting: DW Vintage, Edison Light Globes
graphic art: Babekhul
Photographer: Andrew Worssam
The client come to Giant Design with a unique idea for their project, envisaging a hospitality venue not yet visible in the marketplace. Somewhere between a Japanese Izakaya and a tapas bar, it was to be a Chinese based food offer in a low key bar format, simply, a Chinese pub. The space would need to reflect the menu offering, which would be a mix of Chinese and Malay street food dishes, whilst maintaining the vibe of a local drinking establishment rather than a restaurant.
Given the absence of any historical references for this type of venue in Chinese culture, Giant Design began by reviewing the design elements of traditional English pubs and Chinese restaurants, as well as Asian street markets, hawkers carts and gaming dens and from this they determined to create a sort of cross-breed space, setting up an archetype that would be instantly recognisable as a ‘Chinese Pub’ despite being the first of its kind.
The site was a great starting point, being a former corner pub (though currently trading as a fine dining restaurant) it came with a good set of bones that would set up the feel of the new concept. Existing arched openings in the façade would be reopened allowing greater interaction with the streets outside and rendered internal walls would be distressed with the plasterwork partially removed to expose heritage brickwork beneath, creating an instant sense of history and authenticity. New elements would splice iconic pub style with Asian motifs or styling.
The new bar takes its form from English pubs, but is adorned with Chinese pattern. Glazed heritage tiles, so intrinsic to traditional Australian pub design would take on a Chinese feel in the choice of pattern, colour and set out. A dark timber ceiling would be broken up with draped hessian fabric and lighting would be kept low and warm. The Chinese feel also comes through in the furniture, with playful elements referencing Chinese games inlayed into the table surfaces, and saddle stools replacing the usual bentwoods at the bar.
To ensure the space wasn’t viewed too seriously and captured a feeling of Asian street dining, playful graphics custom designed by Babekhul have been used throughout the space and are applied to walls in a street art format, pasted up behind vintage trellis shutters and lit with warm LED lighting. The same graphics continue to the external façade, referencing the billposter format typical to Australian venues, where they appear as a striking marker to identify the concept and rebrand the site, shifting it from its history as Australian pub and fine dining restaurant, to Chinese street food pub and pitching it towards a new customer base.