34 Franklin St, Melbourne
(03) 9663 6855 or www.captainmelville.com.au
After 160 years in service, Melbourne’s oldest coaching hotel has been transformed into a new dining destination, Captain Melville.
Renovated by Breathe Architecture, the vision for the new venue was to resurrect the experiences of the coach house in its early days, reflecting the 1850s Gold Rush era. They needed to create a venue inspired by its heritage, without appearing like a colonial museum or themed restaurant.
The refined aesthetic was achieved with the use of material mixology. The venue, which is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, was stripped back to a blank canvas, retaining its bluestone walls and tiles. Captain Melville was released from the dimness of former grungy music venue, Miss Libertine, by unbounding boarded up skylights and windows to reveal an airy atrium area. The black varnish floorboards were shaved back to reveal the warm brown timber beneath.
The large dining hall is lined with habitable peaked tent structures and custom communal tables by Breathe and Exzibit, the ideal environment for interaction between individuals. The tents imitate early tent cities of the 1800s, a space where comradeship was fostered in a new country.
Hundreds of recycled timber sections were collected and stacked to form a robust wall reinforcing the dining hall. Mesh frames display ingredients, reminiscent of the Colonial butcher, where meats were hung outdoors in plain view. The hall is illuminated with suspended fluorescent lights from Mance design, lighting up individual tables in a modern reference to the candles used before the advent of electricity. The dining hall has a side entry that fulfils Melburnian’s desire for discovery and hidden access.