No-pretensions club is the envy of the west.
St Johns Park Bowling Club:
93 Edensor Road, St Johns Park NSW
(02) 9610 3666 or www.sjpbowling.com.au
St Johns Park Bowling Club’s members’ facilities were once housed in a shed. Quite literally, St Johns Park Bowling was a shed with bowling greens out front.
These days the club is leading the way with its progressive approach to clubs F&B. The new venues are of an astonishingly high quality, and not just for the ’burbs but anywhere — if you transported the club’s new steakhouse into The Star it wouldn’t look out of place.
“The aim was to expand our demographic,” noted the club’s Marketing Manager Debbie Hilder. “The clubs market is crowded in western Sydney and we needed a point of difference; a reason for younger people to come to our club and not just for traditional reasons such as the gaming, the sports bar or TAB.”
NOTHING LIKE A CLUB
The club hired Rohrig to oversee the construction. There had been a longstanding relationship with the builder having undertaken the previous round of upgrades.
Rohrig engaged Paul Kelly Design to consult on the design as well as developing the business case for the various venues in Stage 1 and 2 of the club’s masterplan. It was a bold move given Paul Kelly Design’s lack of clubs pedigree, but the inference was obvious — ‘we don’t want the new work to look anything like a club, so let’s engage Paul Kelly Design because they don’t do clubs.’
Stage 1 encompassed the aforementioned steakhouse, lounge area and a bakery concept called Baking Room. Stage 2 sees the launch of a smart Chinese restaurant and a pop-up-style F&B concept called the Pavilion, tailor-made as a late evening haven for the younger crowds accustomed to gourmet food trucks.
In a departure for the club (and most clubs in general), Paul Kelly Design worked to divvy up the traditional club lounge space. Designing venues with a venue, the restaurants are entered from a thoroughfare, a main street if you like, reinforcing the notion that you’re dining at a restaurant rather than checking in at a faceless club food option. In fact, the Chinese restaurant will actually be run as a separate tenancy rather than in-house.
The restaurants have their floorspace to work with and share lounge space as you cross the thoroughfare. In a bold move for a club which operates well into the wee hours, the restaurants can and, at times, will be closed — physically shut to the public. Again, this reinforces the fact that these are honest-to-goodness venues rather than club transit lounges.
The Baking Room is a full-service bakery, with bakers and pastry chefs preparing an array of sweat and savoury delicacies. The preparation areas and ovens are in view of the public, providing plenty of theatre in the lounge. It only takes seconds to discern that the Baking Room is far more than a fancy Subway.
The fitout is a contemporary take on a classic bakery with square timber window frames, marble benchtops, French-style display cabinets, brass rails, fluted counter fronts and decorative timber flooring. It’s not fussy but there is an artisan quality to the presentation.
The steakhouse is a huge club drawcard. Members choose from a thrifty array of pub favourites, while the ~$25 steaks are gaining a solid reputation and a loyal audience. The restaurant really raises suburban F&B a couple of notches. The fitout is first rate. Between Rohrig’s eye for detail and Paul Kelly Design’s flair, the steakhouse is one classy fitout.
The $2.8m steakhouse fitout features an open kitchen with a front of house rotisserie and wood-fired oven. Behind the service counter is an extensive display of the cuts of meat on offer — something for the carnivores to geek-out on. The use of timber and other natural materials, such as the intricate stone flooring, help provide a rich and welcoming ambience. Again, the level of detail in the build is outstanding.
The club talks a lot about community. St Johns is a no-nonsense, culturally diverse suburb in Sydney’s outer west, without tickets on itself. What’s more, the club has an almost pathalogical aversion to anything pretentious. It’s an interesting balance to draw. St Johns Park Bowling club is happy to invest in quality but had no intention of launching anything remotely intimidating — either through ‘aspirational’ pricing or unnecessarily pushing the interior design boat out into the realms of the avant garde. Why? Because the club isn’t interested in attracting blow-ins or the harbourside elite; the club is interested in its community.
Doubtlessly, the new bakery and steakhouse look wonderful, and will provide a benchmark for future club refits. All eyes will be on Stage 2 and the Chinese restaurant and the Pavilion. “Can’t wait!” enthused Marketing Manager Debbie Hilder. Nor can we.