758 Heidelberg Rd, Alphington 3078 Melbourne, Victoria
Inspired by fresh produce and an old book, the interior of Benjamin's Kitchen provided interior designer Aaron Wong, of Alexander Pollock, with a chance to indulge his whims.
The new pan-Asian restaurant also presented Wong with an appealing opportunity to tick a few things off his design wish list.
The first was to move away from the industrial look still saturating the Melbourne hospitality market. “I had always wanted to do a pastel palette and incorporate it into one of my design.” he says. He’d also eyed off a set of cloud – shaped hanging lamps by Hae Young Yoon for Hive, comprising delicate but surprisingly strong thin cotton fibres held in place by wire armatures. “They were a perfect fit.” Wong says. “Not as suitable for a residential setting, but more for a themed space like Benjamin’s.”
From the street, Benjamin’s is a bright shot of white with a soft hint of blue. Surrounded by used car yards and featureless shopfronts, the double-storey building retains its bluestone facade – now beaming white – and reads as though teleported from somewhere loftier.
Inside, the space has been extended at the rear to accommodate the upstairs apartment, which has created extra space for the restaurant’s bar and service area. Wong selected the closest stone to marble for the bar bench top, by Silestone, behind which extends tall shelving anchored by powder-coated steel panels. The opaque glass panels are on rollers from side to side, allowing staff to conceal or showcase bottles, crockery or other decoration items.
“I didn’t want to just do a bar with floating shelves. I wanted to play around with the sense of layering and the doors to make it feel more interesting.” Wong says. The floors are light timber-look porcelain tiles, a vast departure from the brittle 1960’s concrete underneath. Wong originally considered polished concrete or an epoxy coating, but tiles were chosen instead for durability.
Around the perimeter lie chunky, dark blue leather banquettes, while each square table is decorated with an array of original TON Bentwood chairs. The tables are topped with leafy yellow and greenery within MUD Australia vessels.
“I chose a really slim table top profile for the tables.” Wong says. “The Bentwoods are ubiquitous, but painting the chairs and leaving ‘socks’ of blond wood creates a point of difference.” To set the scene, he commissioned artist Chloe Planinsek to paint the restaurant walls in an ambiguous mural, comprising soft swirls of blue. Little porcelain birds in mid-flight on one wall add to the effect. “It could be interpreted either as the surf at dusk, clouds or somewhere in between.” Wong says. “You can tell Chloe’s DNA is in the work.”
The same can be said of Hive’s designer, Hae Young Yoon, whose hanging lamps suspend over two zones – the only round table in the restaurant as well as above the cash register. “I did a round table to break up the space and create a focal point. It feels as though you are sitting under a cloud.” adds Wong.
With a kitchen big enough to cook in en masse, Benjamin’s is now gearing up to its next stage of development with the completion of two upstairs function rooms in a similar fashion to the modern, fresh feel downstairs.
Client: Benjamin’s Kitchen
Collaborating Designers: Aaron Wong – Principal Designer @ Alexander Pollock Interiors
Photography: Estelle Judah
Artist: Chloe Planinsek @ Planinsek Art
Brands: TON, Pedrali, James Richardson Furniture