Verge, Melbourne

Verge_02_PArchitect John Denton has designed restaurants all around the world, but this project had a more intimate theme—his client happened to be his son.

“My son Simon [Denton] was no novice when he opened Verge in April 2001. He and his business partner, chef Karen White, were from Luxe in St Kilda, and were keen to open a venue close to the CBD. They brought years of experience with them.

“We found a possible site in a building being renovated as high-rise apartments on the corner of Spring Street and Flinders Lane. The developer was thinking of a café in the old colonnade area at ground level, but we convinced him to allow us to create a two-level restaurant.

“Simon realised this was a great opportunity due to the city location and a view overlooking Treasury Gardens. After completing the design, Verge became a street-level bar and a two-level restaurant seating around 75.

“It’s important to make sure a space is working efficiently, and that’s why we did a redesign last year. When patrons arrive at a two-level restaurant, downstairs is usually the hub. No-one wants to be lonely upstairs. But at Verge, upstairs is the hotspot because everyone appreciates the park aspect.

“We decided to rework the upstairs room by adding an extra mezzanine-level space and a glass cellar room at the ground level for small private dining. Since wine is a priority at the restaurant, Simon needed a larger cellar.

“While the main restaurant has a strong character, it’s the view of the park that everyone talks about. The park is lit at night, so candles on tables set the mood. Subtle uplights and downlights illuminate the room’s artworks, sculptures and ‘sticks’.

“These strong colours and design elements have always been a focus at Denton Corker Marshall. Here, the green repetitive exterior ‘sticks’ and vivid scarlet ones inside are a reference to our other works [including the red-and-yellow ‘sticks’ at the Melbourne Gateway and the colourful Brisbane Square].

“Artworks were equally important when I designed the restaurant, and the sculpture is by a family friend, Akio Makigawa, who gave it to Simon not long before he died. His works also appear at Tetsuya’s in Sydney.

“Another favourite piece in the restaurant is a perforated Alessi fruit bowl, which was designed by my partner, Susan Cohn. Simon also talked about adding [Denton Corker Marshall’s] Presto coffee cups and spoons [also from Alessi], but they’re not in the restaurant yet!

“Overall, it’s easy to make a restaurant design too busy, and that’s why I focus on clarity and integrity when designing. Apart from the vibrant colours in Verge, everything else has a neutral, uncluttered look. Many restaurants cover walls with decorations, but I prefer designed restaurants, not a decorated space.

“At Verge, the design theme matches its cuisine, with chef Dallas Cuddy, whose experience includes a stint at Nobu, London, adding minimalist Euro-Japanese dishes. The kitchen is downstairs, so since patrons prefer being on the top level, all the waiters are the fittest team in town!  ≤

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