Hazel Restaurant in Melbourne by The Stella Collective.
How much do you love eating great food in an uncomplicated, understated space? In the world full of overdesigned interiors, opening a killer restaurant that’s deliberately relaxed and a bit ‘undone’ feels like a pretty brave move these days. And here’s the thing – many restaurant operators never get to see the payback on their exorbitant fitout investment, closing down before their money is ever recouped, let alone a profit made. This is crazy talk, no?
As those of us in the industry would know, a massive chunk of any fitout budget is often spent on things patrons will never get to see – from building upgrades and wrestling with heritage issues, commercial kitchen equipment, exceptionally boring but extremely important building regulations,fire reports and all that sexy stuff. You get my drift. Opening and running a thriving restaurant in a cosmopolitan city full of fierce competition is a tough and expensive game, and costs can escalate quickly. Throw in a, oh I don’t know, like – a three-month shut down due to the global pandemic – and it’s quite clear the need to be smart with how money is spent and invested in design has never been more relevant than it is right now.
To me, it feels really timely to share with you the latest project from The Stella Collective, who have recently completed the interior for one of Melbourne’s hottest new restaurants, Hazel. Stella’s work is well documented on our pages, and this project marks Hana Hakim’s third (and also fourth – but more about that later) collaboration with The Mulberry Group’s hospitality entrepreneur Nathan Toleman (of Higher Ground fame, amongst many other much loved Melbourne venues).
Nathan’s brief to Hana was for a restaurant that was accessible, minimalist and smart, that would stand the test of time and not be all about ‘the design’. An interior that considered its context while avoiding trend-driven choices – a confident space that was bold in its liberation from the exhaustingness of the overdesigned culture. The Stella Collective’s balanced approach gave rise to an interior that can be described as elegantly minimalist, while strategically playing the maximalist card. Just enough to keep things interesting and spicy. Never dull and predictable.
In Hana’s words, Hazel is a celebration of “the glory days of 70’s glamour… a generational reboot that celebrates culture, cuisine, thinking and design.” Nestled in one of the oldest and most coveted heritage buildings on Melbourne CBD’s Flinders Lane, “Hazel dreams of awe, excitement and love at first sight.”
Sounds pretty cool, huh? I bet you can’t wait to hear more about this project now, and I thought it would be best if you heard it straight from the horse’s mouth. In this case, the horse is Hana (hahaha, sorry mate), and I am but a medium who facilitated the conversation. Having had the pleasure of meeting both Hana and Nathan a few years ago over a delicious lunch, I have no doubt Hazel is the real deal and a very special place to experience in person, not just in the photos.