Fresh from Rotterdam

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Wow, whether you love it or loath it there is no ignoring the new Markthal Rotterdam!

Designed by MVRDV, the Netherlands' first covered market shelters beneath a 40-metre arch that contains 228 apartments and is protected by glazed end walls which frame the super colourful mural by artists Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam.

Printed onto perforated aluminium panels, which line the one-hectare surface beneath the arch, the mural displays images of flowers and insects derived from 17th century Dutch paintings.

The UK's Guardian critic Oliver Wainwright has described it as "a Sistine chapel of fresh produce  ...  it squats like a chubby elephantine creature, lined with windows and balconies along its 120 metre-long flanks, terminating in a gaping portal towards the square like Milan's galleria, opening up to suck you into its psychedelic tunnel".

Speaking to Dezeen in Rotterdam just before construction was completed, architect Winy Maas explained that the building's unusual shape came about because he thought the initial scheme proposed by the developer was "boring". "In the beginning they wanted to have two slabs of houses, with a sort of market in between... so you get a U-shaped volume," he said. "I said "that's boring. Why don't we twist it?'" The new form provided more penthouses, a structurally simple arch and plenty of retail units on the ground floor, so the client gave the go-ahead.

MVRDV apt viewMVRDV ceilingMVRDV penthouse

Internal windows in the apartments provide residents with views of the market below, while shoppers can glimpse the people above. "Every house has a window that look into the hall," said Maas. "When you're in the market hall you see urban life. When you go up where the windows are flat you can see people walking over the windows looking down."

Words and images above Via Dezeen.

No matter what your personal opinion might be, this architecture is no doubt a defining landmark in Rotterdam. There is definitely no ignoring the 'elephant' in the square or city for that matter. I love Oliver Wainwright's view on this 'hard to ignore' new structure which you can read here:

Australia’s Hot Restaurants 2014

This article appeared in today's edition of The Australian.  POD presented at the Property Council of Australia conference in WA a couple of months ago on Food & Design trends. This article supports the comments I made then on the trend to 'convergence in the middle'  ... it's good to know these highly respected food journos are of the same opinion!

HOT 50 RESTAURANTS OF 2014: EMERGING TRENDS by John Lethlean and Necia Wilden

Author Michael Symons called it “one continuous picnic”, and we reckon that’s a nice summation of the state of dining out in Australia today. It’s increasingly informal. It’s very democratic. It’s all about sharing. It can happen any time of day. It can be fast and furious, or languid (and liquid). The restaurant experience in Oz has never been closer to the posh picnic.

It’s almost a metaphor for Australian society: there has been a convergence somewhere around the middle. Price-wise, lower-end places have moved up by a sometimes surprising degree, usually by stealth. And higher-end dining rooms have scrambled to make themselves look and feel more accessible and affordable. The fact is, dinner out at anywhere half-decent is going to cost you $100 a head, at least, no matter how hard your chosen restaurant may pitch the Gen Y message.

And increasingly, it’s all about your thirst. The need for restaurateurs to profit from beverage sales, particularly wines and cocktails, has never been clearer, yet it seems that if they get the spirit – and the space – right, we are all too willing to pay. There are queues, and waiting lists, to prove it.

There’s another kind of convergence we’ve noticed, too. At the elite end of the dining spectrum our most expensive restaurants are, by international standards, good value for money, like this year’s Hottest Restaurant (and Hottest in NSW), Rockpool. In the middle, however, the consensus from visitors is that Australia is a pricey place for a casual bite.

Top restaurant trends

We can’t help but be enthused about the dining scene in Adelaide. A new spirit is creeping through the city, with small bars, wine bars and food bars popping up. Compared with the rest of Australia, they offer excellent value for money. It’s no mistake that our winner of this year’s Hottest Value gong is North Adelaide’s nose-to-tail mecca The Daniel O’Connell. It’s exceptional, but let’s not forget this is a city with a history of gastronomic trailblazing and we’d love to think the glory days of the ’80s are coming back.

It’s tempting to say the biggest trend in restaurants this year is wine bars. Everywhere you look, some of the smartest sommeliers and wine geeks are plying their trade in cosy, comfy, good food-oriented bars. It’s driven by the wine price model in restaurants, our love of small-plate nibbles and our appetite for what’s new and provocative in wine.

Wine mark-ups. Doing the retail comparison will only give you heartburn. At a certain type of city restaurant, it seems that anything drinkable needs a $50 mark-up over bottle shop prices to earn a place on the wine list. The era of the $45 starting point for the simplest of wines is here, whether we like it or not.

America, hell yeah. Whatever did we do before discovering the USA last year? Sliders, brisket, ribs, burgers, dogs, po’boys… and not just at the shake-and-bake price point either. The US thing – and its kissing cousin, street food – has permeated the kitchens of some of our most serious chefs. It’s part of the picnic theory: this is a very convivial, egalitarian way to eat and, done well, it’s a joy.

Korea, where have you been? Once, each city had a smattering of trad Korean dining rooms where expats and the curious would venture. Now, alongside them is a new wave of diner that references Seoul. We’re all so familiar with the hot/sour/salty/sweet flavour palette of Southeast Asia: it was time for a whole new layer from the funk and mystery of fermentation. Hello, kimchi; welcome gochujang.

Smoking, coal and wood burning, pickling, foraging, fermenting, producing honey, curing fish: all gathering momentum.

House-made… bread (has never been better); butter (ditto); and fresh curds, including tofu. Mind you, some restaurants aren’t providing bread at all, unless you pay. They shoot themselves in the foot.

Dashi, coastal succulents and native ingredients have invaded our plates, mostly for the better.

Ingredients you cannot avoid these days: yuzu, buttermilk, kale, smoked eel, quinoa, sea urchin, miso.

Dining has gone digital. Whether it’s booking systems, payment methods or the ever-deepening penetration of social media at the table, that smartphone in your pocket is an essential dining companion.

Yes, Australian restaurants have issues. But after sampling international restaurants and with the anecdotal feedback of visitors, we can say dining in Oz – led invariably by broad-minded, well-travelled chefs – is in exciting shape. In the words of too many waiters: please enjoy.

Story via

#podfinds #foodtrends #dining #australia #2014


Chalk it up to experience

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To "chalk something up" is to attribute it. When we "chalk something up to experience", we’re saying that although it wasn’t the outcome we wanted, we can at least learn from the experience. The phrase originated with the custom of marking bar tabs and scores on a slate in pubs.

Given the pub/bar tab historical reference I thought it an apt title for this blog post (although I suspect the outcome on this one well exceeded the client's expectation).

Ben Johnston is a Toronto based graphic artist commissioned by the Sierra Nevada brewery in Nth Carolina to illustrate their brewing story.

WOW is what I have to say about Ben's work. Chalk art has been trending for a while now and this is one of the best applications I've seen.  3 weeks in the making and approx 160 sq metres, you can find more of  Ben's amazing work at

All images with thanks via  

#podfinds #chalkart #installation #design

Ben Johnston Design VM Food

A Happy Little Find

POD_HLD_Tandemonium Loving the happy little graphics done by Tandem E Tandem for Happy Little Dumplings. You can find HLD in happy little locations around inner Brisbane.

A couple of the above images via  #dumplings  #brisbane  #cheapeats #podfinds

Food Brisbane

Good Things in Small Packages

POD_botanica_redhill Botanica seems to operate on the philosophy "less is more". It is a tiny shop offering a small range of super fresh salads, savoury tarts and gluten free goodies for sweet tooths. No seating or espresso machine, this is all about good food to go. Gorgeous packaging and a steady stream of customers makes me suspect Brett and Alison Hutley have a hit on their hands. Head to 1 Enoggera Terrace Red Hill (Brisbane) - the gluten and diary free big chewy chocky biscuits are worth the trip alone! Botanica is right next door to Bowerbird Collections (see post below).

Restaurant Empires in Crisis

I am posting this article that appeared in The Sunday Age yesterday regarding the Melbourne restaurant scene. I am sure it is useful information for POD readers who have retail projects under development.

Given that food and beverage is a daily driver for foot traffic and that legislation largely controls labour costs, perhaps rent structures need to be revised it we want this sector to continue to thrive and add to the fabric of a fabulous city.

Some of Melbourne's most prominent hospitality figures have been forced to close venues or dramatically restructure their debt-ridden empires as the industry faces the biggest upheaval since the introduction of the controversial fringe benefits tax in 1986.

Almost 1500 Victorian restaurants have closed their doors over the past 12 months, which has been blamed on soaring labour costs, corporate belt-tightening and the ''Masterchef effect'' that has inspired a generation of home cooks.

Restaurant and Catering Australia chief executive John Hart said the industry was gripped by a ''systemic crisis'' that had forced some owners to flout award wage laws and avoid tax.

''And that just creates unfair competition between the businesses that do the right thing and those that don't,'' Mr Hart said.

Fairfax Media can reveal that a company associated with prominent restaurateur Paul Mathis, who sold Transport Bar and Taxi Dining Room in Federation Square for $20 million in 2006, is facing liquidation action in the Supreme Court of Victoria. The company is alleged to have traded while insolvent for more than two years at Mathis' defunct Soulmama restaurant in the St Kilda Sea Baths complex.

Corporate liquidators found the company owed millions of dollars to the landlord, suppliers and the Australian Tax Office. It had also failed to pay some superannuation benefits and workers compensation insurance.

Between 2008 and 2010, the company lent more than $470,000 to five other businesses linked to Mr Mathis, which were unable to repay the loans and have been shut down or placed into liquidation. ''Based on my examination of the books and records of the company, it is my opinion that the company was insolvent at all times during the period of 1 July 2008 to 15 December 2010,'' said liquidator Philip Newman of PCI Partners in documents filed in the Supreme Court.

Mr Mathis declined to comment other than to say the allegations of insolvent trading made by the liquidator were ''his opinion''.

Mr Mathis announced his latest venture, a 250-seat pizzeria set to open in Southern Cross Station last month, despite recently walking away from four other restaurants - Bangpop and Akachochin in South Wharf, Henry and the Fox in the CBD and Hawthorn East's Firechief.

Mr Mathis' co-director in the four restaurants, Frank de Rango, did not respond to requests for comment.

Food writer Richard Cornish said Melbourne's struggling hospitality scene was having a knock-on effect for suppliers of meat, fresh produce and alcohol, with many winding back credit terms or only accepting cash.

He said many restaurateurs had been skewered by soaring labour costs and high rents. ''In Australia wages are high, penalty rates are a big issue and passing on the cost of labour at the weekend is incredibly difficult. On top of that, you have big rents. Australian landlords are some of the most rapacious in the world,'' he said.

Nick Zampelis is another high-profile entrepreneur who is scrambling to save his hospitality empire, which has included more than 60 bars, restaurants and nightclubs over the past 25 years. Mr Zampelis has sold or closed six restaurants over the past six months, placed his Elsternwick mansion on the market and is poised to sell CBD nightclub Silk Road at a massive loss in a bid to stave off creditors.

Mr Zampelis has an offer of about $3.5 million for the Collins Street venue, after spending more than $10 million on a lavish refurbishment.

He denied he was under financial duress. ''Times are obviously tough, but I'm doing fine. In fact, I have plans to open three new restaurants. I'm getting out of nightclubs because I'm sick of the industry,'' Mr Zampelis said.

Melbourne Pub Group is also under mounting pressure, after acquiring the Albert Park, Middle Park and Newmarket hotels before spending about $5 million on St Kilda's Prince of Wales Hotel in 2011, with the financial backing of prominent businessman and racehorse owner Gerry Ryan.

Executive chef and director Paul Wilson resigned two weeks ago, following the departure in March of the group's operations and marketing manager, Julian Gerner, who oversaw the rapid expansion. At the time, Mr Gerner told Fairfax Media he lacked the drive to continue running the pub empire in the face of increasingly difficult trading conditions.

''I've been the marketer and the driver of all the businesses to date, but these days you have to micromanage hospitality and the margins are very slim. I don't have the energy to work 100 hours a week under the scrutiny and pressure of others,'' he said.

Australian Hotels Association spokesman Paddy O'Sullivan conceded that Victorian pubs were doing it tough in the face of savage discounting of packaged liquor by supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths.

Mr O'Sullivan said licensed venues now accounted for only 25 per cent of all alcohol sales, which had fallen from about 50 per cent a decade ago.

Tough times have also come for Mario Scerri, who famously bought Croydon's Dorset Gardens Hotel for $44 million in a deal scribbled on the back of a napkin in a corporate box at the 2005 Boxing Day Test Match.

Last month, the Scerri Hotel Group collapsed after amassing at least $485,000 in debts to the North Melbourne Football Club and defaulting on a commercial loan to a major liquor marketer. Mr Scerri is also facing bankruptcy proceedings over a failed loan guarantee.

Despite its debts, Mr Scerri said the group was just a ''shell company'' whose failure said nothing about the health of his wider business empire, which include interests in the Anglers Tavern, Sloaney Pony and The Nixon.

''It basically did nothing and I was happy to let it go into liquidation,'' he said. ''It's very tough out there at the moment. Wages are up, super is up and prices are down with all the competition. But none of those [hotels] are in trouble.''

Mr Scerri said he was unaware of the bankruptcy proceeding.

Ownership of the Dorset Gardens Hotel, which was controlled by another Scerri company, was transferred into the name of his brother, Joseph, in late 2011. Both brothers deny that Mario has had anything do with the Dorset since at least 2007, despite ASIC documents showing he was the sole director and shareholder until late 2011.


Food Melbourne

Oh Boy

POD_bing boy_melb central Bing Boy is a newbie on the quick service food scene. It is the Asian version of a French Creperie. Omelette is cooked to order, filled with yummy things like BBQ duck, cucumber, sweet & sour carrot, salad and hoisin sauce, then wrapped and it's good to go. I particularly like the clean graphics and easy to read menu format. Look for it on the lower / station level at Melbourne Central.

Miss Chu x 2 (Melbourne)

POD_Miss Chu_Sth Yarra I met Nahji (a.k.a Miss Chu) a few years ago at her first tuckshop off William Street in Sydney. Since then she has evolved the concept considerably and now has outlets in both Sydney and Melbourne (and has sold Miss Chu licenses into New York, London, Paris and the rest of the country according to the fabulously flamboyant floor boy in the South Yarra store). It was good when I bit into the first rice paper roll and remains so.  Retail evolution and store growth is not an easy road so I am more than delighted to report the brand and offer is better than ever (particularly love the graphic and store design direction too ... it's honest and on trend).  Kano Hollamby is the designer for this South Yarra store (happy snaps above).  Bring on Brisbane and the rest of the country I say!

Miss Chu Food Melbourne

Design & the Bottom Line

Mid way through last year the owners of a 'run of the mill' cafe in Kew decided they wanted to 'get a bit groovy' and appeal to a more urban bod / 'Yummy Mummy' type living in this well-heeled leafy suburb. Some good advice from a regular coffee client (an architect) was ... "engage a good interior designer and work with what you've got". Comer & King got the gig along with very modest budget (nothing new there, but in this case spent with maximum effect ... which is why you call in the expert in the first instance isn't it? ).

Once a new name, brand identity and colour palette was established and the interior concept agreed the C&K team got busy. A couple of dodgey old doors were replaced bright blue new ones (hard to miss as you are driving down High Street and the owner's loved the idea ... "we thought it was brilliant - we really stand out on the street now"). Freshly painted tones of steel blue, charcoal and taupe gave the dining spaces definition. A side board was painted and relocated.  Popular pop blue Tolix chairs, new tables, some fab light fittings, an oversized clock, a collection of plates with friendly food motives (hand drawn by Cameron Comer) and a bicycle bolted to the wall completed the transformation. Seating was reconfigured to provide 20 more seats (70 in total).

The owners are delighted with the results, both aesthetically and from a customer perspective (they are voting with their feet and wallets ... which was the intended outcome of the exercise).  Without wanting to appear too nosey about their business, I understand they are now grinding through a lot more kilos of coffee each week and a strong Saturday trade has been established (a poor trading day before the make over) (FYI there were also line ups out the door and down the foot path in the first few weeks after re-opening which has now settled into a solid, sensible pace!)

Initially regulars thought the cafe was under new management. They soon figured out it was the same owners and same chef serving up their familiar favourites. Within a week or two word had got around and they were back ... along with a whole swag of new customers who had not considered it an option previously.  I do love the pulling power of good design. Done well, it makes a big difference to the bottom line. Nice work by Comer & King who did both the branding and interior.

Fat Penguin, 713 High Street, Kew East, Melbourne.

To see more gorgeous interiors work go to

And for a peek at what it looked like before the make over ...

A Peek at Pollock

In addition to being on the global snoop for what's new in seasonal decorations and retail, I have cooked and styled a couple of food shoots with uber-fab international photographer, Robyn Lea, whilst here in New York. Robyn recently photographed the home and studio of Jackson Pollock in East Hampton, Long Island.  Being a serious foodie, she was interested in more than just the art side to this editorial. The Foundation provided some favourite Pollock recipes which I whipped up and Rob worked her camera magic on this week, including making fresh bread from scratch - haven't done that in years - it turned out a treat!

VM Food New York