Can one great restaurant be transformed into another great restaurant in just three weeks? Yes, it can! By Frank Leggett
When architect/interior designer Grant Cheyne contemplated the site for Jade Temple, there was an air of familiarity about the space. It was operating as a restaurant that had garnered him a design award. “Eleven Bridge Street in Sydney was the address of Rockpool Est. 1989,” says Cheyne. “In 2014 it won Best Restaurant Design at the Eat Drink Design Awards. Now it was going to be transformed.”
Cheyne has a long relationship with Neil Perry. He was involved with the design and fit-out of Rockpool Bar & Grill in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne, and Spice Temple in Sydney, Melbourne and Dubai.
“Rockpool Est. 1989 was dark, sexy and elegant,” says Cheyne. “After 26 years, the decision was made to cease operation. At the same time, Neil Perry was hunting for a site for Jade Temple, a Cantonese sister of Spice Temple. He put two and two together and decided to transform Rockpool into Jade Temple.”
The site is a heritage building of state significance so everything was subject to approval by the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage. Fortunately, Cheyne had done most of the hard work when originally designing Rockpool.
“We needed to make the look of Jade Temple different without going overboard on the spend,” says Cheyne. “We also didn’t want to revive the beast in Heritage NSW and have them double-checking everything.”
The toilets and the kitchen remain virtually unchanged but a dramatic colour update was needed. The very dark, sultry tones of Rockpool were changed to a warm off-white. Cedar plantation shutters were added to the windows with a fixing method that was completely reversible.
The original flooring was so badly damaged that permission was given to add a new hardwood floor. Narrow boards with a walnut stain add a dark counterpoint to the light and airy space.
The lighting is a masterwork of repurposing. Cheyne explains, “I designed the chandeliers for the original Rockpool and decided to re-use them in Jade Temple. They were painted and had custom fabricated shades fitted. Each shade was handmade in Indonesia.”
Cheyne was also resourceful in sourcing the furniture for Jade Temple. He had a warehouse in the suburbs of Sydney that contained furniture and all manner of things acquired over the years. About 50 per cent of the furniture came from this warehouse, including some beautiful bamboo pieces. The new furniture, mostly bentwood, was chosen to match the existing.
Jade Temple is welcoming, relaxed and eclectic with a vibe and decor that puts clients at ease. “The world has a lot of beautifully designed restaurants that are complete failures. Jade Temple succeeds because the design is truthful to the offering, the clients and the brand.”