A bolt of design and hospitality synergy enlivens a 19th-century former power station in central Melbourne. With its 15-metre ceiling, Higher Ground, an all-day dining destination, soars to lofty heights with tiered levels wrapping around the perimeter of the original brick building to deliver a multitude of spaces to drink, dine, lounge and work in, akin to a hotel lobby.
Commissioned by the team behind the city’s successful Top Paddock and The Kettle Black cafés, Melbourne-based DesignOffice invigorate the cavernous space with planes of geometric abstraction. Deep ocean blue steel walls and staircases abut the soaring concrete columns whilst a solid stone bar and raised platforms supporting communal and individual dining settings on the ground floor anchor the site.
Subtle marine colours (from softly upholstered seaweed green banquette-like couches and teal blue stools to eel grey and pale coral pink sofas) together with solid timber table and bench tops usher a clean yet warm Scandinavian appeal. Natural light flooding in via skylights and enormous arched windows together with bursts of potted greenery add the final sheen.
The Nordic theme carries through to chef Nate Wilkins' menu via a stopover in Japan. Foraged ingredients and textural trimmings including seeds and grains plus exotic elements feature prominently. Semolina porridge with preserved summer cherries, dried plums, shiso and sesame entices the brunch crowd whilst roasted wild mushrooms on soft polenta with pecorino and hazelnuts satisfies at night.