“Victoria” set to enliven Federation Square
After years of deliberating on how to transform Federation Square, a new proposal for the Yarra Building has been accepted with the structure to be home to restaurant Victoria by Farmer’s Daughters.
Following the success of its unique provenance-based restaurant Farmer’s Daughters in the 80 Collins precinct, the restaurant team is partnering with Federation Square to expand its reach and showcase the best of the state.
Scheduled to open in autumn, Victoria by Farmer’s Daughters, alongside executive chef Alejandro Saravia, are “passionate and proud” to be at the forefront of the move to help reimagine Federation Square and its riverside.
“It is an honour to be given the opportunity to work with such an iconic landmark in Melbourne,” Mr Saravia said.
“We are a Victorian restaurant that is championing the best of Victoria and bringing regional towns closer to the city. The restaurant will be a gateway for visitors to start discovering our regions more.”
As a Peruvian who migrated to Australia when he was younger, Mr Saravia moved around the country before making Melbourne his home. And while he has been known and credited in the past for introducing Australians to Peruvian cuisine, he is now passionate about showcasing the best of a state that made him “feel comfortable and welcomed”.
“We want to unveil all the secret gems that each region has that are yet to be discovered,” he said.
“We are committed to working with the best of Victorian farmers, producers, winemakers, distillers and brewers to evaluate and showcase what they are doing. We have learned that a lot of them have dedicated years of passion to their craft and that is why they are the best.”
Focused on highlighting the expansive products and stories found in the waters of the coast of East Gippsland through to the state’s west paddocks and the wines of the High Country, the restaurant aims to immerse diners in an all-round enriching experience.
From including various sensory additions throughout the dining rooms to providing MasterClass cooking sessions, Victoria will become a space where guest chefs, restaurants and producers will be welcomed and encouraged to share their expertise with the restaurant attendees.
Concentrating on seasonal menus where particular regions will be a focal point at various times throughout the year, the 180-seater restaurant represents what a real farm-to-table experience involves.
“This is an initiative for all Victorians and everyone in Victoria. We want everyone to work with us as a community to help elevate a place for every Victorian to be proud of and to build a strong identity that we can show to international visitors once they come back to Australia,” Mr Saravia said.
While Victoria by Farmer’s Daughters is the first active project to be accepted for the Yarra Building in the past few years, it has not been the only proposed idea.
In December 2017, plans were announced for an Apple global flagship store at the site, which would have seen the Yarra Building demolished.
The highly controversial idea not only raised concerns surrounding the commercialisation of public land, but also the disruptions it would have caused to the cultural significance of Federation Square.
One community group known as Our City, Our Square was at the forefront of the debate, creating three petitions opposing the proposal and gaining a Facebook following of more than 1200 people.
The National Trust of Australia (Victoria) was also against the proposal and nominated Federation Square for the Victorian Heritage Register as a place of “historical, architectural, aesthetic and social significance” despite it only being constructed in 2002.
A 12-month consultation ensued and the public was asked by Heritage Victoria to comment on the demolition permit application, resulting in an influential 3418 submissions.
Federation Square was ultimately heritage-listed, and the Apple store proposal was later refused due to its “visually dominant” nature.
Those events led to a review of Federation Square by the state government in 2019 and a $20 million injection from its Building Works Stimulus program followed in 2020, which helped pave the way for the “immersive Regional Experience Centre”, Victoria.
Federation Square’s CEO Caroline Ralphsmith told CBD News she was excited about the addition to the Square.
“Victoria by Farmer’s Daughters joins an award-winning group of quality restaurants at Fed Square such as Hero, Big Esso, Taxi Kitchen and Chocolate Buddha, that continue to put Fed Square on the map for one-of-a-kind dining experiences,” she said. “What sets Victoria apart is the immersive concept of the restaurant that has been developed by Fed Square and the team behind Farmer’s Daughters over the past two years. The restaurant will engage visitors in the stories, art and culture of Victoria’s distinct regions while plating up exceptional, seasonal produce.”
While the Yarra Building will undergo renovations to allow for the vision to be executed, attention to maintaining and preserving the original unique architecture of Federation Square, and the Yarra Building specifically, will be prioritised.
Ms Ralphsmith said the improvements aimed to increase interaction and connection between the Yarra River and Federation Square.
“The restaurant will open Fed Square’s Yarra Building to the river for spectacular outdoor dining in a first for Fed Square’s riverside,” Ms Ralphsmith said.
“Our vision is for Fed Square to be a globally iconic destination where people can meet and become immersed in Victoria’s unique culture, history and identity. We seek out and create projects with partners that share this vision across food, art, film and experiences.” •