The Collection Bar:

328 Bridge Rd, Richmond VIC
(03) 9429 8333 or

A lightning fast refurbishment and a keen eye for historical detail has seen The Collection Bar re-emerge with a look and feel that combines the old and the new. Situated on the corner of what is one of Bridge Road’s oldest buildings, the bar’s transformation is in line with the change occurring right along the street, where the once dominant fashion outlets are making way for shops and venues tailored to a more local clientele. Open for 10 years, Paul Fitzsimmons and Owen Westman are The Collection’s third owners, taking over the bar with the full intention of revamping an interior that had served its time. Working largely from their own ideas, with only a draftsperson assisting, Paul and Owen painstakingly cut the plaster off the walls, removed walls and sourced and installed the fitout, in the process revealing the heritage charm of the building. The French colonial interiors of bars in New Orleans were the overarching inspiration behind the design, which sits well with the Victoriana of the heritage-listed exterior. And, having opened only two weeks prior to writing, The Collection has that heady combination of a fresh interior that already feels lived in, testament to the thoughtfulness behind the design and the experience of the new owners. “We always knew what we wanted,” says Paul. “But as we were pulling it apart, and revealed the brick walls behind the plaster, we thought ‘ah, it’s really starting to have that feel’.” And ‘that feel’ — the substance and quality of the late 19th century — is enhanced by the highly polished wooden bar with its wallpapered frontage, the sparkling array of drinks and glasses behind the bar, the ‘period’ light fittings, the quaint red coffee machine (from local coffee makers, Rosso) and the luxuriously upholstered stools. The heavy Tasmanian Oak dining table, from Schots Home Emporium, adds to the sense of solidity of the space and to the richness of the textures. All in all, this stylistic return to a period when quality came before quantity is a refreshing change from the ultra-modern that has dominated interiors for such a long time. Key to the success of any bar is getting the music right — you don’t want to overwhelm the punters but at the same time, depending on the occasion, you want the ability to pump it up a bit. To provide this flexibility without the bulk, Pulse Audio Visual, which installed The Collection’s sound system, chose the Void Acoustics ‘Indigo 6’ speakers (distributed by Audio Logistics). These small, sleek speakers are barely noticeable mounted on the wall at each end of Collection Bar, yet they provide enough sound to fill the space without swamping it. “We’re really happy with them,” says Paul. “Adam, from Audio Logistics, was very involved in the process and the whole sound system works really well.” More than anything, the speakers don’t interrupt or clash with The Collection’s aura of classy but comfortable vintage style. And it’s not surprising the regulars are returning to their watering hole with enthusiasm. As Paul remarks, “It’s only two weeks since we opened, but we’ve been really busy. Last night we were packed, which, for a Wednesday night, is a great sign.”

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