If you’ve walked down the Melbourne Central side of Lonsdale Street between Swanston and Elizabeth street, you’ve unknowingly passed the frontage of the city's newest hospo hotspot. For the past six years, the HQ Group (Arbory Bar & Eatery and Arbory Afloat) have been conceptualising and creating Her, a one-of-a-kind four-storey venue encompassing a bar and brasserie, a music-listening room, a Thai eatery and a stunning rooftop terrace. It’s located inside 270 Lonsdale Street, a heritage fronted ex-cigarette factory that has been restored by local Melbourne studio Jackson Clements Burrows Architects.
Enter on the ground level to Her Bar, an amber-lit boudoir of fluted glass, honey-coloured walls and a rouge terrazzo floor. The interior design, also thanks to Jackson Clements Burrows, emanates the confident and seductive qualities of European salons – but with key features of Australian mid-century design. The menu? “European fare with a French lean but delivered with a modern lens,” says Nick Bennett, HQ Group executive chef. “Housemade (right down to the sourdough and cultured butter), beautiful seasonal produce and classic techniques are the cornerstones – made to snack, share or settle in for the long haul, at any time of the day.”
Exit to the moody internal staircase and follow the technicolour strip lighting to level one, where you’ll find the simply titled 'Music Room' behind a soundproof door. The HQ group have gone quite literal here, in that this space does exactly what it says on the tin. Inspired by the listening bars of Japan and Europe – much like Brunswick’s Waxflower – the intimate space is somewhere to lounge and drink while listening to your favourite DJs journey through their vinyl collections. The perforated walnut-wood walls are designed to imitate the inside of a speaker box, and the dynamic lighting constellation in the ceiling changes with the cadence of the music. This is somewhere to lose hours – maybe even days.
Skip a level to floor three (two’s offering is still under construction) and arrive in the bleeding lights of a Bangkok streetscape – this is BKK, a turbocharged Thai barbecue canteen. “The food at BKK is our take on the street food of Thailand, using the best Australian produce," says Bennett. "Inspired by the late-night vendors of Bangkok, custom charcoal-burning grills and wok burners lace smoky notes into the dishes.” The open-concept kitchen is in the middle of the room, with a limited number of chairs and booths surrounding the fire-fuelled action. Custom neon-light art bounces off brushed copper walls – it’s a little disorienting, but that’s the idea. The seats move quickly, no bookings, just fast, fun, in-and-out service.
The BKK kitchen will also service the top level of Her – a stunning rooftop terrace with unobstructed views of the city centre. There’s something different about the Her Rooftop vantage point. It’s more intimate, more exclusive, rarer than any other you’ll find in Melbourne. Designed by Melbourne-born, Sydney-based Tamsin Johnson, the space channels old-world glamour with its custom decorative fixtures in modern and art nouveau style; loops and curls in wrought iron tables and chairs, round marble table tops with brass inlays, colour-packed art on wall tiles and geometric-patterned laid Italian marble floor. Seating 120, the space is considerable, but not expansive. And it’s open until 1am, seven days a week.