Relax, you’re among friends.

Story: Christopher Holder
Jimbo & Rex: Crown Melbourne, Southbank VIC


Before I even set foot in Jimbo & Rex, I liked it.
What not to like? I mean, I had no idea who Jimbo or Rex were but I felt sure they were friendly; in all probability human; and I got the feeling they were more than happy to knock the top off a cold one. Approachable, informal, family friendly… I had a good vibe about these guys.
The reality matches the promise. Jimbo & Rex is a new addition to Crown Melbourne’s ‘West End’. It’s replaced most of the real estate formerly occupied by The Pub and combines a casual ‘front bar’ with anytime dining.
Crown excels in its ability to get the most out of its interior designers. For its part, the huge Crown machine can make ‘stuff’ happen — it’s easier to realise ambitious custom concepts — and the Crown pockets are the deepest in town. But there’s a quid pro quo: Crown expects elite levels of professionalism — with an eye for every last detail, there’s no going to sleep at the wheel as a designer.
Mim Design was given the Jimbo & Rex interior design brief… and a whole lot more. The Mim Design team — headed up by Kylie Dorotic — came up with the full design package, including the branding, the nomenclature of the menu, the cutlery, the aprons, you name it — everything you can see or touch as a punter was part of the Mim Design brief.

I spoke to Mim Design’s Kylie Dorotic on site, marvelling at the impressive dimensions of the venue. It’s a big space full of bold statements — big copper facade, oversized pendants, giant L-shaped bar. But not bombastically monolithic or overbearing — there’s lots to admire in the detail and the layering in the design.
Kylie Dorotic: It is a huge space. The ceilings are 5.5m high, yet there’s also a real intimate warmth to the venue. There are some really successful pockets that people can retire into if they don’t want the hustle and bustle.
venue: But a big space requires some big statements, and you have those.
Kylie: The bar is immense and sets the tone. It says, you can come in and have a drink anytime and a snack or a meal.
The ceiling reveals the timber rafters that radiate from the bar and provide some more New York loft-style informality (without the grunge) as well as ample room for PointofView’s (POV) indirect architectural lighting design. And there’s colour — a fresh, fearless approach to colour — that uses the very best in what can only be described as ‘undercoat’ blues and greens. You can see for yourself, it looks amazing. Combine that palate with slate grey, light woods, cream tiles, and accents of copper and you have a very rich visual smorgasbord of textures and tones.
And just about nothing’s off the peg. Crown’s SWAT fitout team can build anything, or they know someone who can. Schiavello played a role, while hand-picked Australian artists came to the party with some great looking cameos — glassware, a wall feature etc.
The feature lighting includes bespoke contemporary chandeliers made of glass and copper, and being able to see the light source in this way gives the lighting a traditional feel. Mirror finishes around the bar and seating areas reflect light throughout the space adding sparkle and glow. Custom pendants above the boomerang-shaped bar and in the dining area were created with a copper finish, to complement copper accents elsewhere in the interior.
Concealed lighting is used to illuminate vertical surfaces; a choice was made to wash the light to increase brightness in the space without the use of excessive ambient lighting. Other vertical surfaces such as bottle displays and artworks are accented either by integral lighting or concealed customised spotlights. Other features that are accent lit include porcelain plates, trees, pot plants and a double height art wall made out of recycled timber. Allowing contrasts was important for the display of these elements.
Now that Jimbo & Rex, along with the Man Tong Chinese restaurant next door, has launched Crown’s West End is complete. The enormous West End undertaking, which kicked off with Lagerfield on the ground level, and now encompasses the new Level 1 gaming floor, Merrywell, Cotta, Lumia, and the new Common Room. It’s a transformation. But are the ingredients just right? Kym Barter, General Manager of Restaurants, is the right man to answer that:
Kym Barter: I was a little concerned that with the Merrywell we had two pubs in the same area. How are we going to differentiate them? But we’ve not had any trouble. The clientele, the food and the atmosphere is very different.
venue: Jimbo & Rex takes over from The Pub, which had many admirers.
Kym: The Pub was a very successful venue for us. But a few years ago, The Pub was the only bar in the West End, now we have three or four. So we were looking for a new venue where the food offering was more accessible (we leave Merrywell to provide the gastro-pub experience); where you can eat at the bar, and be there with your family.
venue: So you were careful to avoid any misconceptions of Jimbo & Rex being The Pub MkII?
Kym: Yes, and we’ve done that very successfully. We’ve hired a great team, most of which has come external to Crown. It’s a young, energetic team — they’re having fun, and helping to create a relaxed atmosphere. These guys are Crown staff, but more importantly they’re Jimbo & Rex people. We’ve hired a venue manager and head chef who have the autonomy to run Jimbo & Rex in the way they see fit. And for a venue like this, which is off the gaming floor, that’s an advantage.
venue: How’s Jimbo & Rex been performing?
Kym: Really well. We’re really, really happy with it. If anything, the dining area could be bigger. There’s plenty of demand on tables for dinner — we’ve hit the exactly right mark with the cuisine type.”
I guess the design cliché is ‘resolved’ — the Jimbo & Rex ‘concept’ is beautifully ‘resolved’. How successful it is as a venue, only time will tell. Like any of Crown’s own tenancies, it’ll be highly scrutinised, and will be backed to the absolute hilt until such time that it’s swiftly and methodically replaced — it’s dog eat dog.
But until that time, we can exalt in a great pub idea, wonderfully realised.

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