- Article by Online Editor
- Photography by Nicole England
- Designer Eades and Bergman
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This article originally appeared in Inside issue 75: The Hospitality Issue.
Inspired by the New York meatball shop, The Meatball and Wine Bar is a new addition to the bustling Flinders Lane precinct in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. Designed by local interior design studio, Eades and Bergman, the layered, industrial interior complements the bar’s hearty menu of rustic Italian food.
Timing is everything, so the saying goes, and for Samantha Eades and Wendy Bergman, the commission for The Meatball and Wine Bar fitout came immediately after a business trip to New York. Taking cues from the traditional meat shops and delis they’d encountered on their travels, Eades and Bergman’s fitout has a tough and unfussy feel to it. Exposed brick walls and rippled black ceramic tiles on the underside of the bar are paired with stained timber floors and steel light fittings and bar stools.
Metallic finishes, too, have a tarnish and grit to them in order to avoid appearing too polished. “We didn’t want it to look new and shiny,” says Bergman. Instead, the dull lustre of the copper bar and the distressed mirrored wall add patina, and help to infuse the interior with a brooding, masculine edge.
The venue is owned by film and TV producer Matteo Bruno, who had some very particular ideas about the bar’s aesthetics, and the ways certain areas could be ‘dressed’ in the way that a film set might be. “The lighting had to be great,” explains Eades, “and he had to have a meat display cabinet.” For the lighting, Eades and Bergman collaborated with industrial designer Paul Grummisch, whose pendant lights feature long, slimline steel cages above a bare bulb. Suspended along the walls and above the bar, Grummisch’s designs are part of Eades and Bergman’s desire to introduce bespoke detail throughout the fitout.
Collaboration is a common thread that weaves through the story of The Meatball and Wine Bar and, while the New York deli served as inspiration for the design, there is a distinctly Melbourne flavour to Meatball’s identity. Eager to avoid using furniture and lighting that customers would already be familiar with, the designers opted instead to use custom pieces that would contribute to the bar’s charm and character. “People are so aware of the product, so we thought it’d be nice to offer something refreshing, something that people haven’t seen before,” explains Eades. “[The collaborations] bring a real authenticity to the project.”
In addition to the lighting designs, Grummisch also made the large communal tables using recycled 25-year-old timber, while local furniture designer Daniel Barbera crafted the custom-designed bar stools, a robust design featuring a flat, sturdy base and a slender steel stem that branches out at the seat. Aron Tzimas from graphic design studio The Anatomy was charged with the branding – which includes the illuminated ‘MEAT DEPT.’ sign above the meat cabinet, as well as the gold leaf lettering on the front window, hand-painted by a traditional sign-writer.
The wall that separates the kitchen from the dining space, meanwhile, has been clad in mirrored panels that have been treated to give them a smudgy and distressed look. Subtly extending the space, the stained mirror adds an edgy glamour to the interior. The work of wallpaper artist Matthew Liam Collins of Art and Interiors, its patina was achieved by stripping back the paint on the reverse of the mirror before etching and scrubbing the surface with an acid wash. This process erodes the silver, producing the dark stains that mark the front of the mirror.
Seating options reflect the increasingly quick and casual dining culture that is particularly suited to a venue such as this. Located on Flinders Lane and servicing a crowd of busy city professionals, it’s a bar rather than a restaurant: a place to grab a quick bite on the move, rather than somewhere to linger for too long. The communal tables in the main dining area are flexible and uncomplicated, while high tables near the entrance and bench seating by the window allow diners to watch others ebb and flow into the space. Barbera’s stools provide further seating at the bar, a generously sized surface clad in marble and copper.
Two brick walls that run the length of the interior act as a coarse counterpoint to the sheen of the ceramic tiles, copper and marble that wrap the bar. As the layers of plaster were peeled back, the architectural character of the space was slowly revealed. “Until the plaster was taken off, we didn’t know about that beautiful detail,” Bergman says of the arched niches. Another discovery was a recess that had been filled in some time ago – “an idiosyncrasy of the space,” Bergman explains, which has now been converted into a seating nook.
And as for that meat cabinet? Designed and built by Grummisch, and taking pride of place along the mirrored wall, it’s become something of a showpiece. And, Eades jokes, weighing in at 250 kilograms, “It’s not going anywhere!”