A New Era
ONE68 are excited to have been part of the redevelopment of the iconic hospitality precinct at ‘Collins Quarter’ in the Melbourne CBD. We have recently fitted-out two amazing new restaurants owned and operated by the Sam Prince Hospitality Group. Their first foray into the Melbourne restaurant scene, Mejico Tequila Bar and Restaurant and INDU a lively Sri Lankan and Southern Indian Restaurant both located at the infamous ‘Pink Alley’, are set to become just as popular as their sister restaurants in Sydney.
Previously we have reviewed the JAW DROPPING interior fitout ONE68 completed at Mejico, but in case you missed it, here’s a taste…
The two-storey Mejico space sports a Mexican fiesta-inspired interior, with an industrial edge.
The fitout features an oversized custom-designed and made Day of the Dead skull sculpture, hand-painted mandala murals, striking floor and wall artwork by local Melbourne artist Ash Keating, with a black and neon pink colour pallet throughout.
An all-weather courtyard dining room on the ground floor includes a leafy vertical garden and serves up a diverse menu of regional Mexican fare, whilst a more intimate tequila bar and cocktail lounge upstairs provides over 260 varieties of tequila and mezcal. The built-in rotisserie and extraction in the courtyard and hanging festoon lighting make this all-weather courtyard incredibly unique.
“INDU is a nod to my heritage and a place that is reminiscent of home and being welcomed into someone’s home especially like in the villages of Sri Lanka. There are dishes on the menu that are my mother’s recipes including the Amma’s daal and potato curry as well as dishes that are inspired by my childhood or I have discovered through my travels. It’s really exciting to finally bring this to Melbourne,” says SPHG founder Dr Sam Prince.
As you enter this heritage building, a large green, gold and black mural (by Apparition Media) covers the front corridor, provides a nod to Indian and Sri Lankan design and welcomes diners to INDU. The entry lounge bar with it’s ornate entryway and antique bell feature suspended from the ceiling further greets guests, and is the perfect destination for pre-dinner drinks. Dining seating spaced along the purpose-built window looks directly into the kitchen that wraps around the bar and into the main dining room, offering a peek into all the action. Separated by soft linen curtains, five custom made and designed private booths with cushioned banquette seating line the wall parallel to the kitchen bar in the dining room and two exposed circular booths are featured next to the main dining space.
Large terracotta pots overflowing with spices and dried chillies are dotted throughout the restaurant, filling the senses with smells of a faraway place. Stripped floorboards pave the way upstairs to INDU’s private dining room with an exposed brick wall featuring the original stained-glass windows, which is a nod to the building’s heritage. An oversized timber dining table handcrafted by Melbourne-based furniture maker Leslie Jones also sits front and centre, tempting dinners to fill it with tasty, exotic dishes.
“Sam and I opened INDU in Sydney in 2015, and we’re so excited to share this new experience with Melburnians. When you step into INDU you forget what’s on the outside and find yourself immersed in a whole new place that’s just magical,” adds SPHG co-founder and Melburnian Ian Hicks.
The scope of works ONE68 completed for the new INDU restaurant in Melbourne included:
The scope of works ONE68 completed for the new INDU restaurant in Melbourne included:
- demolition and defit of the existing venue
- full internal fitout of the bar areas, restaurant areas, private dining
- room space, shared kitchen, amenities and BOH
- custom manufacture and installation of joinery for kitchen
- design, manufacture & installation of curved dining booths
- new raised timber flooring with DDA ramp
- bar area brickworks (including hand thrown bricks)
- walls and plastering
- glazing and window tinting
- tiling of kitchen and amenity areas
- stone work
- plumbing/hydraulic work including new grease interceptor trap, gas for
- appliances, and installation of water and waste
- electrical work
- sourcing and supply of soft furnishings
Hands-down this was one of THE most creative projects we have worked on, and also one of the most challenging! Fitted-out largely during the harsh COVID lockdowns here in Victoria last year, this in itself was a massive obstacle with regards to the logistical side of things for our team.
In particular the kitchen which services both the Mejico and INDU restaurants required the flexibility of on-the-spot problem solving. We are really proud of the way our Project Manager Stuart Mason and the crew of various trades were able to address and solve these unknowns that cropped up during construction.
Installing the magnificent 2 metre diameter pendants in the upstairs private dining room was also a huge task! Due to their massive size, these steel light fittings had to be disassembled to even fit into the building and up the stairs, and then re-assembled onsite in the dining room area.
Another interesting challenge of this project were the dining booths in the main restaurant area downstairs, which have a view of the open kitchen. These custom made booths showcase our joinery maker’s fine craftsmanship, and were transported and installed in one piece, as they were made of 10mm metal plate and weighed half a tonne each!
What The Critics Say
First Look: Behind a Victorian Terrace Frontage Is Indu, an Intimate New Sri Lankan and South Indian Restaurant
“Owner Sam Prince might use his Sri Lankan mum’s recipes for aromatic, coconut-y red-lentil dal and potato curry. But the menu here isn’t strictly traditional. Find hoppers with goat’s curd and pomegranate pearls, dosas with bacon jam, and smoky, chai-infused Old Fashioneds.
Before opening the original Indu in Sydney in 2015, owner Sam Prince was working in Sri Lanka as a doctor. But, despite already being entrenched in the hospo industry (fun fact: he founded Zambrero), it was the first time he looked to his Sri Lankan heritage for inspiration.
“We were in a war zone and the people would give back to us by putting on this amazing spread,” Prince says. “It got me thinking about what we do and don’t know about Indian and Sri Lankan food [in Australia].”
At that time, he reckons, some Aussies were just discovering the nuances of Sri Lankan and South Indian food.
While local palates are significantly more culturally conscious in 2021, Prince’s mission remains largely unchanged. At Indu’s newly opened Melbourne outpost – on Collins Street in the CBD – he wants to champion Sri Lankan and South Indian cuisine while highlighting their individuality. In his words: “It’s like the difference between a German shepherd and a golden retriever”.
That’s not to say the food at Indu is strictly traditional. Sure, you’ll find aromatic, real-deal Sri Lankan curries (Prince’s mum’s recipes are used for the coconut-y red-lentil dal and the potato curry), plenty of hoppers (Sri Lanka’s bowl-shaped answer to pancakes, here filled with pickled eggplant, pomegranate pearls, goat’s curd and sambol), and house-made paratha (a layered Indian flatbread). But fusion isn’t off the cards.
“To the left you have super [traditional], and to the right you have the Australian taste palates,” Prince says. “The game is finding out where there’s crossover.”
For Prince and co-owner Ian Hicks, the crossover looks like this: dosas with smoked Yarra Valley goat’s leg, bacon jam and zucchini raita; and crisp besan (chickpea flour), tamarind and cardamom fritters, not unlike polenta chips. Plus, curries made with Mount Mercer pork and Lachlan Valley lamb.
Desserts include spiced carrot cake with coriander icing; vegan chocolate-and-cardamom mousse; and mint granita with coconut ice-cream and a pistachio crunch – all of which pair wonderfully with the Smoked Chai Old Fashioned. The rest of the drinks list is dominated by gin and Australian wines – including aromatic and textural varietals such as fiano and gruner veltliner, and spicy grenache blends – that pair well with the food.
If it weren’t for Hicks, Indu wouldn’t have settled in its current spot, behind a Victorian terrace frontage, which he operated as Collins Quarter for seven years.
It’s now fitted out with a palatial mirrored doorway, secluded booths separated by soft linen curtains, and a private upstairs dining room featuring the building’s original stained-glass windows. There are also large terracotta pots overflowing with spices and dried chillies, and murals by Melbourne artist Ash Keating (the same as those on display at the Sydney original).”
86a Collins Street, Melbourne
(03) 9671 4376
Mon to Fri 12pm–late
As reviewed by Concrete Playground
Published on 17 February 2021
by QUINCY MALESOVAS
Previously the site of Doc Martin’s Bar (also another ONE68 project and pictured above) and Collins Quarter gastro pub, we are proud to be part of the evolution of this hospitality precinct. It gives us great satisfaction to see how a venue can be completely transformed in a relatively short period of time. Whilst it is sad to see a business close, we are excited to have been part of the new era at this iconic Melbourne CBD hospo space.
ONE68 have completed many hospitality interior fitouts in old and heritage listed buildings, and we understand the nuances associated with such projects. The above left image features the upstairs area as it was as part of the Collins Quarter Pub and the image to the right reveals the same space, but with it’s brand new Mejico fitout.
We welcome your Hospitality fitout enquiries! With over 20 years experience in delivering premium interior fitout projects Nationwide to the Hospitality and other sectors, our team has the industry knowledge to get the job done right the first time, to spec, within budget and on time. Please contact Andrew Hicks on 03 9518 5168 or firstname.lastname@example.org and learn more about how we can assist you with your next project.