Colourful Yunnan 'Peacock' was chosen to be the flagship urant for a Restaurant Group specialising in Chinese ethnic Yunnan cuisine. It was the opportunity to bring Yunnan cuisine to the forefront of Melbourne's diners. As such, the brief was to create an upscale restaurant that offered patrons a sophisticated dining experience, with open and private dining spaces that also had the capacity to be zoned for hosting of private functions.
The design aesthetic is industrial in nature with finishes that are minimal to respect the character of the original building. Finishes have subtle variations in texture whilst the selected colour palettes have been pared back to allow the colours of Yunnan cuisine to shine. The dilapidated 11m wide x 42m deep existing building presented the typical challenges associated with rejuvenation. But the main challenge which needed to be overcome was connecting the two separate floors thoughtfully and creating more engaging spaces within structural ceiling heights that were as low as 2.4m.
The creation of a new main entrance void to replace the original entry and stair was the key design gesture. This singular intervention transformed the volume into a more dynamic space. The interplay of light and the transitioning between the expansive new volume in the void to the lower ceiling areas created more interesting spaces with varying degrees of intimacy. The problematic low ceiling now becomes a quality in a deeply intimate circular buffet seating. Suddenly, one became more engaged within the various volumes. Private dining rooms are contained in first floor glass boxes that seem to sit over a pond, with patrons having to step across, almost as a ritual, a threshold of pebbles and water to enter.
Peering back out through the glass towards the front, are custom black perforated balustrade panels which protect the void, and also transitions to the new industrial stair connecting the new volumes. The materiality of steel, and recycled timber tread reminds us again of the building's industrial past. The journey down the stairs and past the bar gives a glimpse of the only area where more opulent finishes were applied – with corian surfaces and bronze mirrors used to the bar and counter area.
Revealing and expressing the original steel trusses with black accents reveals even more height at the upper level. Against the backdrop of the expressed plywood panelled ceilings, the trusses evokes a lightness which mimics the outstretched limbs of a tree – one could imagine our Peacock perching itself along its length to observe the patrons below. Instead, the Peacock perches itself serenely on a sculptural stainless steel ring that hovers over some a simple rockery at the centre of the new void. This is his new dominion, at Colour Yunnan.