Just over a year ago, Aaron Ratanatray bought a former travel agency on Prospect Road. It became the South East Asia–inspired Sunny’s Shop.
When he acquired the site it was packaged up with the almost century-old next door Rosemont Building – most recently an Indian grocer. Sunny’s was phase one. Phase two is converting its 1924-built neighbour into a food hall and meeting place.
These aren’t unchartered waters for Ratanatray. “My family has always been in food – especially food-court-style food,” he says. “I’ve always loved food courts: you could go as a group, not have any idea what you want, but all find something you’re happy with.”
The hall’s historical records are “all a bit hazy”, says Ratanatray. To fill in the blanks, he’s extrapolated a backstory to inform the fit-out. “Imagine it as an old teashop from the ’20s,” he says. “We didn’t start off with a particular design brief. It was more that feeling we were after. We wanted to transport people.”
The once-dingy aluminium shopfront has taken a turn towards 1920s-style Art Deco. Dark timber bi-folds frame custom-made leadlights and an antique pressed-metal ceiling. Above, artist Tristan Kerr (who handpainted the Sunny’s menu boards) will scrawl “Rosemont Hall”. Two brass push-plates will be marked with “R” and “H” – the hall’s initials.
Moving inside, plastered walls have been stripped back to expose original brick and stonework. The repurposed-timber-clad ceiling has been cut to incorporate a south-facing skylight. A few slabs of antique pink marble – thought to be from the state bank in the ’30s – will make for a slick elbow-rest.
Sunny’s will remain as is, but go forth under the “Rosemont Hall” umbrella. The hall will flow through to Sunny’s and out into its greenery-laden laneway. “You can choose your own adventure,” Ratanatray says.
New stall Mr Chan will rethink Chinese takeaway food. Expect “freshened up” Cantonese classics like hand-rolled dumplings, sweet-and-sour pork hock and sizzling beef. Plus cheeseburger spring rolls: “Picture all the things you’d have in a cheeseburger, in a spring roll,” says Ratanatray. “It’ll blow your mind.”
Served on trays, lunchtime “package deals” will mimic those of China Town food courts. An assortment of teas will also be available.
Across the hall, a cafe will serve organic coffee, Abbots and Kinney pastries and breakfast (on weekends). When licensing comes through – in the next three months, hopefully – it’ll morph into a bar at night: beer-focused with a concise cocktail list.
There’s scope to add other stalls down the track. But next on the agenda is an atrium at the building’s rear.
Rosemont Hall will open in mid-November.