Replacing a venue that was dubbed the haunted house with colour and light,
Following the dream of Brisbane hospitality entrepreneur Simon Gloftis, whose Hellenika and SK Steak and Oyster are both wildly popular, Sunshine is a gourmet vegetarian offering. Laid back but of fine dining quality, Sunshine is most certainly not your usual take away. “Simon’s vision was to serve the healthy Mediterranean food he’d been brought up on in a way that could be enjoyed every day. It’s a good sign when the staff from other venues choose to eat their lunch there,” says Greg Lamb, principal of Hogg & Lamb.
Dealing with the exterior built-in area (read, horror show) was paramount in creating an open and light area. This however entailed a complete demolition and effectively left the restaurant with no indoor dining area.
The power of yellow umbrellas
“For hospitality, people don’t like losing trade when it’s bad weather, so they usually end up trying to enclose all the outdoor spaces, certainly pretty uncommon to take away a building and put umbrellas back in its place. I was pretty happy that he did that. That’s a pretty brave operator,” comments Lamb.
A very bold move indeed. One however, that Hogg & Lamb has executed well with the insouciance of crazy paving paired with light summer furniture, white chairs and teak tables below bright yellow umbrellas. With black shade cloths used for much of the tenancy Sunshine stands out as bright, light and undeniably attractive.
Theatricality and layout create a distinct impression
Differentiating Sunshine is the high quality of food on offer (much of the food for Hellenika is prepped here), but takeaway with outdoor seating provided. This is a conundrum the design needed to address to avoid bill shock at the till.
A service and delivery strategy was developed simultaneously with a design layout and theatricality that gave people space to understand the offering and time to be greeted warmly and given the lowdown without pressure.
“We were very mindful that the experience of walking in had to be different from both a kiosk and the most expensive restaurant you can think of. We aimed to mix the two together and have people understand that intuitively,” says Lamb.
As such the palette, while Mediterranean in keeping with the food, is similar to the rest of James Street in Fortitude Valley to deliberately reinforce expectations of price point. Pale limestone and textured walls with a subtle material shift, frame the main presentation of food along the rear and side parameters.
“We tried to give everything kind of a handmade look. All of the plasterboard is bull nosed and rendered, but none of it is quite perfect. It’s all a little bit wobbly,” says Lamb who felt it was important to have a genuine materiality to the space. At the rear the wall soars to a high arch with an inset skylight.
Rather fabulously, this has been strategically worked to allow natural sunshine to flood diagonally across the wall and the large but subtle Sunshine signage.
Creating moments of awe
Compressing the queue to the outside edge was another strategy that means you enter the restaurant having stepped around a corner. In this way the high vaulted ceiling comes as a surprise of volume that again reiterates the tone as experiential: “The idea is that when you step around the corner, you get temporarily overwhelmed and then you see all the products in front of you and there’s too much choice,” says Lamb.
Effectively the moment of awe causes patrons to stop and take things in. It is a clever tactic as there is need to approach the counters mindfully and understand what is on offer. It is also delightful with a bonsaied olive tree referencing the Mediterranean fare and the larger planting of olives at the perimeter.
The smells and sounds are rich and layered with a bustle of activity behind the counters keeping the mood high. The layout is directional as a horse shoe with selections along the way, somewhat like a cafeteria tray loading procession. The size however, allows time for the relaxed and amiable staff to both engage and assist.
Tuning the finer details of spatial experience
“The difference between this place and a normal place is they’re, very friendly, and they’re right there at the start to make eye contact with you and, and then talk you through the process so that by the end of it, it was a bit stressful, but somebody really nice helped you through it,” says Lamb.
Echoing the arch of the vaulted ceiling a series of arches runs across the back wall. Both open and closed, the arches give glimpses through to the interior or provide shelving for terracotta bowls and such. “Partly it’s an exercise in tuning how transparent it is, so that you can see action in the kitchen, but you can’t really scrutinise what’s going on back there,” says Lamb.
The importance of good lighting is never to be underestimated and here it is exemplar with directed spots used with large floods for both front and back of house. Effectively the lighting within the kitchen acts to highlight actions with the staff moving in and out of light spots as a form of theatrical presentation, while the washes ensure task needs are met optimally. “It’s a good backdrop to the room and it’s noisy and energetic. So, even if you’re the first person to walk in, it feels like there’s a lot going on,” says Lamb.
“The nicest thing about it, is if you walk down the street now it looks really friendly and energetic. It feels more like a streetscape now,” says Lamb who has also noticed that some of the adjoining tenants enquired about changing their black awnings for yellow.
Hogg & Lamb
Christopher Frederick Jones; hero image by Joshua McGuire.
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