New foyer creates a buzz

Rhonda Dredge

There’s still one floor available in the recently renovated T&G Building at the Paris end of Collins St and agents are advertising it as ideal for those with global interests.

Former tenant KPMG has gone and the building has a new casual foyer complete with a bottle shop, patio, music and long, inviting bars.

The make-over is a far cry from the older style Collins St foyer with its quiet empty spaces and classical columns.

The BHP building next door looks positively severe in comparison and even the ostentatious 101 Collins seems a relic of 20th century establishment thinking.

Two new bars opened last month with quite a fanfare at the funkier Flinders Lane end of the T&G building, one in the basement and another on the first floor of the heritage Richard Allen & Sons building which is now connected to the T&G.  

Restaurant manager Nathan Mathew is trying to play down the hype but that’s difficult with Google, Nike, Treasury Wine Estates and Accenture as tenants of the floors above. 

“Hazel is a produce-driven restaurant with simple, beautiful food. We have a zero-waste mentality but we don’t want to preach about it,” Mr Mathew said.

You can sit up at the bar at Hazel and order mullet or whiting caught in Corner Inlet the day before and smoked in-house, while keeping an eye on the scene in Flinders Lane.

The new foyer has attracted the attention of CBD residents who have to be clever about the way they approach a venue to avoid the large crowds of commuters who swamp favourite places after work.

Leonie Huddy, on sabbatical from her academic post on Long Island, used Google to find her way to Hazel and was surprised to discover a haven even at 5 pm on a Friday night. 

Hazel reminds her of a Chicago bar, she said, with its exposed pipes and long bar where she would hang out after conferences doing publication deals. The US dollar buys a lot here with current exchange rates and she’s not complaining.

The Netflix vibe of Hazel is not surprising, given that the building was bought in 2015 by the Pembroke Group, a global company with offices in Boston, which advertises its thoughtful approach to refurbishment projects.

The former dentist’s clinic has now been reborn with a design by Hana Hakim for restaurant lessee, The Mulberry Group, connecting it to the new Bates Smart foyer. 

Commentators say that even lavish Collins St buildings such as 101 have had to upgrade to keep their A rating. 

End-of-trip facilities such as lockers, showers and bike-parking are now de rigeur for the younger, fitter office worker and are seen as a step towards creating community.  

The T&G foyer was jumping when CBD News visited compared with other more staid buildings nearby. Some artistic fit-out elements help such as exposed pipes, creative lattice work and great irregular hunks of granite as bar tops. 

Bars feature heavily in the new global foyer, distinguishing it from the usual coffee shop in a corner model, creating a great place for the lone drinker, snacker and diner to pick up some gossip.

“There’s a younger demographic now,” says one Collins St observer. “Before there were stuffy accountants.”

The reno is documented in a newsy in-house tabloid-style newspaper, available for short perusal at the desk, instead of the usual glossy mag.

A week later The Mulberry Group opened another bar beneath Hazel, with just as much fanfare. This one promised debauchery. When CBD News visited the clientele looked hopeful.

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