You can tell spring has arrived in Melbourne by the sweet smell of jasmine drifting on the breeze, rising temperatures and lingering daylight. But you also know winter is on its way out when an extravagant floating bar pops up on the Yarra. That’s right, Arbory Afloat is open again, and this time its had an art deco-meets-Miami Vice makeover.
“Miami’s a pretty incredible place. There’s the ’80s vibe, the art deco vibe, the southern American vibe,” says Lucienne Hemingway of Curious by Design, who worked on the Arbory Afloat concept. “We were going to go for the obvious Miami Vice concept initially but wanted to bring it into a tone of a cooler Melbourne feel.”
Chef Nick Bennett and other senior staff went on a research trip to Miami, then created the menu (recently revealed by Broadsheet) upon return. They also sent back reference material in the form of photos of interesting architecture or interiors for Hemingway and graphic designer Ryan Guppie to adapt into a colour palette to be used throughout the venue.
“We take that colour choice through the entire site … custom-made menus, custom-made umbrellas, furniture, bar detailing, service trays, everything,” says Hemingway. This year that means a “summery vibe with aqua green and pink, that poolside resort style”.
“Everything we do is pretty much custom-made in Melbourne,” she continues. “We have a multitude of suppliers, from timber furniture-makers to about four different metalwork companies. What they can produce for us in a really short time frame is kind of mind-blowing. We have about one month to pump out everything.”
Upstairs on the soon-to-open second level is this year’s big draw – an eight-by-2.5 metre pool, around which you’ll find double day beds with custom manoeuvrable shades that can be positioned depending on whether you want to hide from, or be mates with, the sun. There are also cabanas that can be transformed from a lounging day bed for about eight people into a dining area, thanks to a pop-out middle section. The cabanas are fully enclosed with lights and fans, and awnings can be opened or shut depending on the desired level of privacy.
“All the cabanas have a beautiful curved rooftop that’s replicated into the bar,” says Hemingway. “We’ve changed all the forms into curved, rounded shapes, which we took from a lot of the art deco buildings over [in Miami].”
You’ll also find plenty of greenery such as palms, bougainvillea (still set to bloom) and two of last year’s orange trees, as well as lots of hanging greenery in the new weather-protected restaurant area. But Hemingway’s favourite part of this year’s design is the variety of different areas guests can experience.
“You might be able to go 10 times and be in 10 different situations,” she says. “There’s seating where you can come and relax, chill for the whole afternoon on plush cushions with a buddy and drink. Or come at night and stand up and be in the dark with the city twinkling behind you.”
Arbory Afloat’s first level is open now. The second level and pool will open on Wednesday, September 25.