As one of Manchester’s most stylish and popular restaurants, Australasia, in the city’s trendy Spinningfields district, has wowed customers with its delicious food and unique surroundings.
The tag line ‘A stylish but laid back slice of modern Australian life, down-under in Manchester’ provides a clue to what makes Australasia unique – the fact that it is entirely underground.
Michelle Derbyshire, who worked as lead Interior Designer on Australasia, said:
“The restaurant location is underground so there is no natural light; I had to think how I was going to transform the space to feel like Australia and South East Asia. Normally when you think of an Australian space you think of it being light and airy with lots of natural light, so the initial space was the exact opposite.”
The design process began in August 2010, with the building work beginning in February 2011. The restaurant opened at the end of May 2011. The total value of the project was around £1.3 million.
The main contractor was ABM Pro. Michelle Derbyshire and Living Ventures in-house designer Edwin Pickett worked on the architecture and design.
Michelle Derbyshire said:
“I was engaged to do the concept design and came up with the overall look and feel of the space. Working with Tim Bacon, the Managing Director of Living Ventures was great as we are both Australian, so there were no issues with my points of reference.
“It’s quite difficult to work out what is Australian without being naff and having obvious references – we didn’t want to have koala’s hanging from trees. I approached the project wanting to give the feeling of being in Australia rather than an ‘Australian’ look. I wanted to convey a warm, relaxed, chilled feeling –like you were in on holiday in Sydney.
“I was keen to have a lot of texture in the space so I used ghost wood trees with Slimbrick cladding on the walls. We also used a special Slimbrick lime wash on the project, which is what made the space come to life along with the faux white washed beams. I used a lot of relaxed and natural looking products, such as Dinesen Douglas Fir on the floor which gave it a glowing, vanilla look.
“I also used concrete and aged zinc for contrast cooler elements. For the back bar, Atelier Joinery Ltd did a wonderful job. I used Singapore – with its British Colonial history – as the basis of my inspiration, as well as the Raffles Hotel which opened in Singapore in 1887. This inspiration is reflected in the bookcase bar and the paneling within the restaurant.
Given the restaurant is underground Michelle also had to consider how to attract people into the space, given the lack of a shop-front presence on the street.
“We decided to go with the concept of less is more, installing an understated glass pyramid on the street. The concrete stairs flanked in back lit Amberlite leading down to the restaurant give a feeling of almost walking through the core of the earth – quite literally walking down under.
“Australasia was a great project which I was passionate about from the start. Working on a new restaurant concept with such a wonderful client as Living Ventures was both interesting and enjoyable. It’s been well received and as a result of that I’ve had a lot of enquiries. I’m currently working for another project for Living Ventures nearby in Spinningfields.”