Although its entrance is anything but dramatic – you reach Curious down a dimly lit staircase hidden behind an inconspicuous glass door on Market Street in the CBD – the interior at subterranean cocktail bar Curious certainly is. Moody lighting heightens the theatrics and, because the bar’s walls and ceiling are blanketed in dark-timber beams, you feel like you’re tucked in an intimate and cosy cocoon.
The hotel bar – designed by Melbourne architecture and design firm Hachem for W Melbourne, which opened in 2021 – was recognised by the renowned London-based Restaurant Bar & Design Awards last week, when it took out the world’s best ceiling award.
It’s one of just four Melbourne venues recognised by the globally renowned London-based awards, which were announced last week. Other winning venues include Lona Misa, which took out the hotel design award for the Australia and Pacific region.
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The all-day, meat-free Ovolo hotel diner, with trailblazing vegan chef Shannon Martinez in the kitchen, was designed by Sydney-based architecture and interior design firm Luchetti Krelle. The beautifully brash space features ornately framed Victorian-style art splashed with the words “Mételo en la boca” (Spanish for “Put it in your mouth”) in red graffiti. There’s also a chequer-tiled floor, emerald-hued furniture and a lovely rounded bar.
South Yarra’s striking, angular tea bar Yugen won the regional surface design award. The fit-out, by Lucienne Hemingway of Curious by Design, was created to mirror the mountainous regions where tea typically grows. It features angular, rock-like structures extending from the ceiling, and dark grey, charcoal and black hues throughout. Behind the bar seating is a thick, black velvet curtain that can be drawn for extra privacy during dessert degustations or evening cocktail sessions.
Luxury butcher’s shop Victor Churchill won the Australia and Pacific standalone design category. Rod Faucheux of Sydney’s Loopcreative designed the shop, which is blanketed in dark-green verde marble floors (echoing prime meat’s fatty marbling), with baroque copper arches (a nod to the family’s Croatian heritage) and playful touches such as brass sausages in place of drawer and cabinet handles. To enter, you move through a green curtain, where you’re greeted by three metres of curved glass, behind which butchers put on a show of chopping cuts on wooden blocks.
There was one other Australia venue recognised: Sydney’s Goodsline cafe, which won best cafe design (Australia and Pacific). It was another win for Luchetti Krelle.
There will be an awards ceremony for the Restaurant Bar & Design Awards in October. This year’s judging panel featured designers, editors and hospitality experts, including Merivale’s Emma Palmer, restaurateur Scott Pickett (Smith St Bistro, Longrain, Chancery Lane), and Good Atelier founder Aaron Crinis (Glorietta, Glory Days).
Additional reporting by Emma Joyce, Chynna Santos and Quincy Malesovas.