Architect Pascale Gomes-McNabb, with her husband/chef Andrew McConnell, thought a former art gallery in Melbourne would be a dream project.
The building had been a gallery space for the past decade and the owners asked if we’d like to put in a hospitality venue. Andrew [McConnell, chef/co-owner] and I already had something else in the pipeline so we declined. A few weeks later, we were driving past and realised its potential. We always wanted to do something a bit more casual and approachable in the city.
“We put in a tender package which was a worthwhile exercise as it refined what we wanted to do with the space. Our other restaurants lean towards fine dining but we decided to give Cumulus Inc. more of an informal environment.
“When we visited Spain recently, we loved the ‘anything at any time of the day’ experience, and used this as our inspiration. Cumulus needed to be open all day from breakfast to dinner. Our focus is on quality and a casual ‘something for everybody’ feel, whether you’re looking for a morning coffee, oysters and champagne for lunch, a martini in the afternoon or a six-course dinner at night.
“Marrying the concept and the design is integral to making a space work and flow cohesively. It’s about creating an intangible balance between the proportions, colour, texture, scale, volume and materials.
“Choosing a name is always quite mercurial. We needed a name that could mean anything to anybody and Cumulus has an airy feel while the word ‘Inc’ adds a solid, industrial contrast.
“The actual space isn’t large but feels expansive, due to its proportions, the four-metre-high ceilings, large windows and a level of light that’s amazing. It has fantastic bones, and there is a real New York warehouse feel. Since it had been a gallery, our plan was to keep that calm ambience and not add too much—just a restaurant landscape.
“Overall, the background is white with various focal points, including a structural post we painted red. That colour resonates throughout the space. The DNA pendant light [available from Hub, www.hubfurniture.com.au] also makes a statement and is perhaps reminiscent of a bunch of grapes. We’ve spoken about putting in artwork but because the space is part of a gallery, we wanted to keep it fairly neutral. There is enough going on in the open kitchen to keep diners entertained. It’s a stage for the cooks’ daily performances.
“Diners don’t only go out for special events anymore; going out is a daily occurrence. That’s what we are tapping into—how people like to dine on a day-to-day basis. We can seat about 60 if every chair and stool is taken. Overall, it’s an understated space. Certain design elements are a bit quirky but they are fairly subliminal. Using beautiful materials, such as Calacatta marble, American oak and black metal, evoke a classic timeless quality.”
45 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (02) 9650 1445
55-57 Gertrude Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065