Upscale food court converted into a food cafe at the Melbourne Emporium

On board: Simon O’Regan and Jackie Middleton of EARL Canteen. Photo: Penny Stephens

Melbourne’s mall food courts have never been too preoccupied with quality or fashion, but the buzz surrounding the opening of Emporium Melbourne on Wednesday is as much about food as it is about shoes.

With no McDonald’s or KFC in sight, the food court – management prefers the phrase “cafe court” – is the new home of independent Melbourne names such as EARL Canteen, Jimmy Grants, Chinta Ria, Industry Beans and South Melbourne Dim Sims.

Emporium Melbourne center manager Steve Edgerton is so emboldened by the trendy mix of hospitality brands – including Charlie & Co Burgers in Sydney, Becasse Bakery and Jones the Grocer (all from the Becasse group) and New Shanghai Chinese Restaurant – that it uses the phrase “the city’s upscale foodie destination”.

Whether it’s overdoing the pudding, it’s clear that the 1980s food court concept is getting a modern makeover.

Most of the approximately 30 grocery stores will be housed in an atrium on the third floor that will feature 20-meter windows overlooking the city, 1,100 seats and a mosaic mural depicting the city’s history. Melbourne-based architecture firm Russell & George decorated the space.

A souvlaki from Jimmy Grants.

A souvlaki from Jimmy Grants. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

“I would like to think of it as the food court of the future,” said Edgerton. “Melbourne diners are demanding, so the rental team only approached those who could make a point of difference. “

The concept of the high-end food court is inspired by Asia, where high-end shopping malls are considered to be favorite places to dine.

While Westfield Sydney’s daring experiment of bringing gourmet restaurants into a shopping mall has been a failure, the idea of ​​enticing shoppers with a bustling mid-range food court is catching on with the giants of the retail.

Australia’s endangered early ’90s development on Collins will close in May, and a renovation will bring the basement food court to a second-level’ first-class luxury dining terrace ‘, said Matthew, director of development for LaSalle Investment Management. Bailey. “No national brands, and no double boiler,” he promised.

A relaunch of the food court at Chadstone Shopping Center could also be considered, according to center manager Scott Sullivan.

Simon O’Regan of EARL Canteen said he and his partner Jackie Middleton greeted Emporium Melbourne’s initial approach with skepticism.

Inside the Emporium 'café court'.

Inside the Emporium ‘café court’. Photo: Supplied

“I think everyone was initially scared of the words ‘food court’ but Westfield Sydney has been doing their job for five years now and it’s being billed as the benchmark,” he said. “Once they let us know it was going to be wonderful, we got on board. “

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