The concept was to create a truly unique butcher shop that successfully blended a traditional European butchery in look and feel, as befits the conservative, European “feel”, wealthy suburb of Woollahra in which it is located, with modern, cutting-edge design elements and features that had the potential to re-define the category, not only in Australia but world-wide.
When a client suggests breaking all the rules yet respecting them at the same time it represents the ultimate conceptual and design paradox, which is the most exciting type of project to be involved with. There were no other set parameters from the client, which was thrilling. We asked if it would be possible to propose a totally distinct retail experience, as opposed to simply decorating a traditional butcher shop, layout and operational concept. As such, we were able to fully conceptualise Victor Churchill in the layout stage long before we discussed finishes.
The basic conceptual premise was to include virtually all of the traditional “back-of-the-house” work areas within the “front-of-the-house”, even the refrigerated cool room, and besides showing customers the highest level of cleanliness, we wanted to able to highlight all of the potential excitement in the butchering and food preparation process in highly unique surroundings, much as in our cutting-edge restaurant design. But in a retail butcher shop this has never been done to our knowledge (and to our client’s knowledge who spent almost 3 months visiting all major world cities such as Milan, Rome, Barcelona, Paris, London, New York, San Francisco, Tokyo etc. exploring renowned butcher shops).
For all the timber-lined European comfort of this shop, it is overflowing with a number of modern features that are both intended to provoke intrigue, amuse and hopefully downright astound patrons:
- The painted timber-lined street-front façade features a see-through double glazed refrigerated vitrine that allows passers-by to both view an ever-changing array of hanging meat and poultry from stunning custom copper and glass shelving together with items set into an illuminated ice display while viewing intro the shop beyond. No plastic parsley in this display!
- Upon entering, the customer is greeted with a warm, cosseting yet fascinating store. Rich timber wall panelling, timber beamed ceiling and Italian Calacatta marble slab stone floor, sliced into mosaic tiles then re-laid in book-matched slab form with custom made curved marble wall coving in an Australian-first installation forms the base of the interiors. Ceiling beams and counter fronts feature hand carved copper fretwork. (Where the beams carry on the other side of the kitchen glass walls but the fretwork violates food hygiene standards, the same fretwork pattern has been silkscreened on the timber veneer to continue the same look into the butcher / kitchen areas.)
- There is no refrigerated butcher counter to approach, but a “stage” behind wall-to-ceiling glass where skilled butchers work within a refrigerated space on round French Oak timber butcher blocks, almost like sushi chefs, surrounded by recessed in-floor up lights and a glass-clad historical sandstone “rubble” wall as a backdrop that was discovered during demolition. (The original Churchill’s butcher shop that our clients purchased is the oldest continually operating butcher shop in Australia, which opened in 1876)
- Welcoming concierge-style staff positioned in the middle of the shop assist customers with any and all requests and queries while acting as personal cashiers. In a “warm” personal touch; clients stand next to the concierge staff while they’re ringing up purchases, not behind a counter.
- Custom copper refrigerated cabinets line the opposite wall to the butcher “stage”, where Australia’s premium raw meats sold to the nation’s, and many of the world’s top award-winning restaurants, are displayed for sale for the first time in a retail outlet together with pre-prepared meat specialities such as terrines, pates and parfaits prepared on-site in a top-quality hot and cold kitchen located within the store by Victor Churchill’s own team of Chefs.
- A charcuterie counter displays many of the world’s top quality cured artisanal meats for sale such as Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, Prosciutto and Chorizo sliced with legendary Dutch Berkel meat slicers alongside a specially imported French Bonnet rotisserie roasting poultry and game birds that set new standards in Australian hot take-away. A museum-quality antique Berkel floor-standing slicer, restored in Europe especially for Victor Churchill, is displayed nearby for customer viewing.
- A floor-to-ceiling glass-walled cool room is yet another stunning feature. Speciality cuts of meat slowly pass by customers hung from a custom designed cog gear and metal chain rack with larger carcass meat cuts aging behind, all backed by a floor-to-ceiling Himalayan salt brick wall, which in addition to providing a dramatic back-lit background similar to an onyx wall, infuses the hanging meat with flavour-enhancing ancient salt.
- The hot and cold kitchens, located to the rear of the ground-breaking store feature hair-on-leather clad walls covered and protected by glass from famed Texas-base leather artist Kyle Bunting, representing perhaps the ultimate in recycling.
- Finally, whimsy features in numerous areas including the “chook cam” wall (Australian slang for “chicken”), with a nod to a recent Louis Vuitton window display, with multiple video cameras trained onto the daily special within a glass domed display pedestal will ensure that the “chook” or “snag” (sausage) will neither escape nor escape attention.