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A Market-Food Typology For A New Generation: Wilson & Market by Kestie Lane

Wilson & Market is the new flagship restaurant located at the Prahran Market. The eatery includes a ‘hole-in-the wall’ take-away window, a café that extends into the market square and a brasserie and bar with an entrance off Commercial road – a reimagined model of a highly traditional format.

The centuries-old ‘food-market’ format is a time honored tradition. Moving from providore to providore, taste-testing all the best local produce – cured meats, smoked cheeses, pickled vegetables, fresh fruit and baked goods – housed within historic art-deco holes-in-the-wall has always been romanticised.

Sure, this model was doable in the past, where the population was only a quarter of what it is now, but have you tried going to Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Markets on a Saturday recently? It’s at least a 30-40 minute wait to get anywhere near a counter, much less sample the produce and enjoy it before you’re abruptly rushed into your purchase and ushered away from the stand so other customers can be served.

In our haste to maintain and engage with some of that ‘old-world’ charm, we’ve forgotten to redesign and update the experience. Melbourne-based designer Kestie Lane’s latest effort for Wilson & Market’s new flagship restaurant at the Prahran Market is the ultimate nexus between nostalgia and modernity.

Shaking up the staid market format

Wilson & Market is part of the current redevelopment of the Prahran market and is the hero venue in the rejuvenation of the 126-year-old market. The restaurant design, for example, juxtaposes a contemporary, sophisticated aesthetic against the raw energy and buzz of the daytime marketplace and holds its own as an evening destination brasserie and bar venue.

“The design brief was complex,” says Lane. “We wanted to create a venue that would cater to a breakfast and lunch clientele as a light-filled busy café and then transform to an evening venue that was sexy and evocative all underpinned by the ethos of the farm to table concept.”

The existing tenancy presented some challenges: “very low ceilings and exposed existing services made for a difficult ceiling design and heights but the great location and backing onto the market square was key in creating the design experience,” Lane explains.

Inside and out, the venue exudes a sense of transparency and connection to the Prahran Market, with the playful design of the ‘tuck-shop’ window for takeaway coffee and the café, which spills out into the market square. The internal experience of the restaurant and bar is more intimate and plays on the theatre of food with an open kitchen, an oyster and rotisserie bar and a marble-clad 10-metre ‘white spirits’ bar.

Wilson & Market is bustling yet intimate, the interior encourages customers to immerse themselves allowing for a different experience each visit. The magic of the interior is how the design slowly reveals itself with a series of vignettes. The innovation can be truly recognised and appreciated in these beautiful moments.

The final finishes

The interior palette, for instance, is curated with warm finishes of grey stained oak timber, terrazzo and timber floors, soft polished concrete walls offset by the punch of green tiles and an extensive green marble bar. The sophisticated palette of finishes and custom crafted joinery sets the design language, which creates an intimate yet a lively energy to the venue.

Kestie notes that, “Collaborations with artisans and craftspeople” are the core philosophy of her design practice and one that transforms the design into something truly unique and memorable. “This philosophy and practice contribute to a contemporary interior design by creating intelligent and considered design spaces rather than solutions inspired by fad or fashion.”

Wilson & Market is light-filled, authentic and an exceptional re-interpretation of a classic model. It is an intimate interior, with an unpretentious elegance. The inspired food sits beautifully against the crafted interior that evokes a relaxed and memorable experience. But most importantly, every facet of the design thinking for this project embodies that healthy positive eating we all remember from our market visits – a farm to table concept where biodynamic ingredients are sourced from small local farms.

Photography by Peter Clarke.

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