Designer Fiona Lynch is responsible for a slew of new and sophisticated interiors at butchers across Melbourne, including Peter Bouchier in Hawksburn, Cannings Free Range Butchers in Kew and Hawthorn and Gruner in St Kilda. She also did the stylish overhaul of Toscano’s grocer.
“It’s a reaction against the whole Coles thing,” Lynch says of her growing list of provedore clients. “They are trying to create an authentic experience, creating a point of difference to the impersonal, big supermarkets.”
“I think shoppers want to get back to this intimate experience, where you know the name of your butcher and you trust that he will give you the best cut of meat available on the day,” she adds. Where once the sophisticated and dramatic interior of Victor Churchill butcher in Sydney was a singular experience, designer meat stores are popping up throughout Australia. Butchers have dispensed with the typical white-tile aesthetic, enlisting interior designers and architects to create spaces that are stylish, singular and warm, while also highlighting a superior gourmet product. Even Andrew McConnell, one of Australia’s most famous restaurateurs, is opening his own shop, Meatsmith in Melbourne.
In Brisbane, Cabassi & Co Artisan Butcher enlisted design firms Tu Projects and Round Peg to create a contemporary but inviting storefront at its new Indooroopilly outpost, using earthy woods, bespoke wallpaper and extensive tiling.
“The key point of difference, one that is now being copied in a few new stores and fit-outs, was the synergy between a ‘paddock-to-plate’ butchery and a sexy tasting environment, which turned into a fully fledged, associated kitchen,” owner Pete Cabassi says about the main ideas that fed into the creation of the space.
Other artisan food stores, such as bakers and delicatessens, are also getting upscale makeovers. In Adelaide, The Village Baker used local interior design firm Genesin Studio to oversee the sleek renovation of its store in Burnside. Speciality spice store Gewurzhaus enlisted Doherty Design Studio to create its first Sydney store, an enticing space that merges, in the firm's words, “old-world European retail charm” with a contemporary aesthetic. March Studio’s contemporary but warm interpretation of the modern baker took the shape of a sculptural, timber-encased interior at Baker D. Chirico in Melbourne. Yardmill, an artisanal deli, engaged Projects of Imagination to design its Toorak Village shop, which featured timber accents and shingle-style handmade tiles by ceramicist, Shane Kent.
“These spaces have a community feel,” says Sophie Lewis, senior interior designer at Fiona Lynch. “People are referencing history more; tradition has become more important, with a contemporary twist.”
A sense of history influenced Fiona Lynch’s design of Cannings Free Range Butchers in Kew. Taking reference from the building’s 1960s modernist heritage, she used materials such as stone, timber, polished chrome and handmade green tiles to create a textured, polished space. In her work for Peter Bouchier, Lynch says she, “wanted to pick up on that traditional aspect” of having meat in the window.
Meanwhile, in David Flack’s redesign of T.O.M.S Organic Butcher in South Melbourne Market, the designer set out to create a space that reflected the owners’, “dedication to their trade, while reflecting their dynamic and playful personalities”.
“The new colour scheme of pink and blue imparts a 1950s feel, a leap back to when stand-alone butcher stores were hugely popular,” Flack says. “I felt it was important for their brand and it creates something completely different and idiosyncratic.”
“We didn’t want the hessian bag, organic look,” says Jane Niall, co-owner of T.O.M.S Organic. “That’s been done before. We wanted something modern and exiting.”
“Aesthetics are enormous when it comes to food. It’s about the five senses these days, and you have to provide that,” she says. “We live in a generation that shops differently to our parents. We live in an incredibly aesthetic time. We’re driven by photography and image. It used to be about convenience and now it’s about people sourcing certain products, whether it be for welfare reasons or other motivations.”
This high-design overhaul of artisan food stores is a movement happening throughout America, Europe and Asia. Acclaimed architect Lazaro Rosa Violán designed the Praktik Bakery in Barcelona, while Blé Bakery in Thessaloniki in Greece enlisted architecture firm Claudio Silvestrin Giuliana Salmaso. In Japan, Osaka-based Hiroki Kawata Architects did the chic, minimalist fit-out for Panscape bakery. An entire street in the Marais in Paris will be rejuvenated and repopulated by local food artisans in designer stores in a development called La Jeune Rue. Tom Dixon, for example, has been enlisted to design the grocery and fishmonger. In the US, the Organic Butcher in Virginia and Rain Shadow Meats in Seattle have created elegant fit-outs to go hand-in-hand with their first-class meat offerings.
The rise of the home cook and its trappings—the local farmers’ market, seasonal produce, artisanal food and liquor—alongside cooking shows such as MasterChef, is driving a demand for specialist food purveyors. For the serious cook, the supermarket is a no-go.
“People have realised they don’t want to go to the one-stop shop. They want to go to the butcher for their meat, and to the baker for bread, the cheese shop for cheese,” says Pasquale Trimboli, whose family runs a number of Canberra’s most popular Italian restaurants.
This year the Trimboli Group will open an Italian grocer and delicatessen in the nation’s capital, responding to demand for a venue Trimboli says no longer exists in the city.
“There’s an undersupply of the types of products we use. We already bring the stuff in, we use it everyday. But there’s nowhere for someone to go and buy it,” he says. “We decided to open a deli when we noticed people asking, where did you get that cheese or olive oil? And no-one’s selling it.”
In an interesting turn of events, the family will return to its original vocation: Pasquale Trimboli’s father used to own roughly a dozen delis in the Canberra region, which he sold off as supermarket chains began to siphon off customers. But in 2015, the family believes there is a place for the local delicatessen again.
“Its not just about the product,” Trimboli says. “It’s the experience.”