Macaron king Adriano Zumbo’s latest patisserie has a fantastical fitout inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the game of Mouse Trap.
In recent years, there has been a food explosion in Australia. Our cosmopolitan cities have been treated to new kinds of restaurants, from sushi trains to boutique burger bars, plus a plethora of markets and specialist shops full of every foodstuff you can imagine, with new types emerging all the time. In this spirit of experimentation, Sydney’s latest foodie hot spot, the new Zumbo at Star City in Pyrmont, is a patisserie/cafe that combines our love of tasty treats, shopping and the sushi train in a retail-hospitality hybrid.
The project, which is situated on the ground floor of the complex on a prime corner site, is open to the outside and has great street presence. On one side is a not-so-traditional patisserie where customers can view the desserts (which are behind glass, like in a gallery) and place an order with a staff member. On the other side is the cafe, where customers sit on high stools around a bench and choose from the desserts that are moving past on a conveyor belt.
The man behind this is Sydney’s king of the macaron – that small chewy sweet somewhere between a meringue, a biscuit and a cake – Adriano Zumbo. The “country boy” from Coonamble in New South Wales, who has Italian parents, has had a passion for cakes and pastries since he was a teenager. After starting as an apprentice at a cake shop, Zumbo worked for Neil Perry, studied in Paris and in 2007 launched his empire with a patisserie in Balmain, Sydney, followed by another patisserie and a cafe. Now, he regularly attracts huge queues to his stores and has a television series and a book to his name. He is highly creative in the kitchen and his desserts have wonderful names like Water my Melons and Escape From a Columbian Rainforest. Zumbo’s creative quirkiness and zest for life were the starting point for Luchetti Krelle, the interior designers of the new Zumbo at Star. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was the first reference. Adriano’s known as Willy Wonka,” explains Stuart Krelle. “He’s got a Wonka tattoo. So we went with the idea of a factory – the idea of movement.”
The other key piece of inspiration comes from the board game Mouse Trap, in which a ball is sent along various conveyor belts, booted and hoisted along a plastic obstacle course until the mouse is trapped. “Mouse Trap – the board game – gelled well, so rather than looking like a straight factory, there’s a bathtub, and the actual mouse trap,” says Krelle.
Zumbo’s interior features wallpaper with pictures of macarons on it and images of bubbles on the door leading to the pot wash, inspired by the licking wallpaper and the bubbles in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Mouse Trap references comprise a conveyor belt for the desserts, complete with a wheel of pink boots that look like they might kick the desserts along, a bath and several “mouse traps” – in reality a cross between a plinth and a light for the desserts, but shaped like plastic mouse traps from the board game. The macarons are displayed in their own glass cases with the words “in case of emergency break glass” written on them and with colourful pipes leading away, this final element influenced by the chocolate river in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The concept of movement is also present in the moving lights on the facade, which take the shape of jumping coloured macarons. A huge, hot-pink Zumbo sign is the finishing touch.
The space is split into three – retail on one side, sit-down desserts on the other and a huge kitchen in between. The creative elements were custom-designed and built – some by Di Emme, which created the cogs and the pink shoe wheel, and others by Luxxbox in Brisbane, which designed and built the mouse traps. The kitchen itself had to be incredibly well thought through in terms of functioning efficiently for staff, and being able to turn out a huge number of macarons and desserts to keep up with demand. For anything this popular, the movement of people through the space had to be carefully considered. Retail helpers needed to be able to take the orders before customers got to the checkout, and the dessert train had to allow customers to sit down, eat and move on at a reasonable pace.
While the functionality of the space is paramount, it is the whimsy in this project that sets it apart. This is a magical creation, brought into being by the melding of creative minds. Luchetti Krelle was creative enough to come up with the concepts – and there were plenty more on the list before budget and practicality got in the way – and Adriano Zumbo not only went along with it but was a key inspiration from the outset. “Adriano’s a super creative guy,” explains Krelle. “We had a lot of fun. You put something to Adriano and he’ll say ‘sounds great’ – it was great to have someone so creative on the project.” Bright and playful, this interior has pulling power to be a major Sydney destination in its own right – not that the macarons and desserts need any help.