A new restaurant by Australian chef Scott Pickett celebrates the farming origins of Melbourne’s retail capital, writes Mandi Keighran. 

The Melbourne suburb of Chadstone, a 25-minute drive from the Central Business District, is home to one of the largest shopping centres in the world, with over 550 shops that attract around 24 million visitors annually. Until recently however, there was a lack of luxury accommodation to complement the high-end retail experience. That all changed with the opening of Hotel Chadstone Melbourne, MGallery by Sofitel at the end of 2019. 

The AU$130 million property – the city’s first five-star hotel outside of the CBD – is a soaring tower designed by Bates Smart, inspired by the feminine, draped form of a flowing dress. It boasts 250 rooms, suites and penthouses, a bar, a rooftop pool and two restaurants including Pastore, the latest offering from award-winning Melbourne chef and restaurateur, Scott Pickett. The restaurant takes its name from the Italian word for shepherd, referencing the farming origins of the land in Chadstone, an idea that also informed the interiors scheme, which comes courtesy of the Singapore office of EDG Design. 

“From the start we were excited about the idea that the site used to be a sheep farm and orchards, so the pasture idea was always there for us,” says Michael Goodman, Managing Director at EDG Design. “But it didn’t become what it is today until Scott and his team came on board later in the design process. He was the ideal fit.”

© Kristoffer Paulsen

The space has been designed around the principles of an old farmhouse, with cedar wood framing a large hearth and several rooms that come together to make the house. Bespoke tapestries in soft, earthy colours and native Australian floral arrangements adorn the walls, delicate furnishings are realised in subtle pastel pinks and greys that recall the Australian landscape, and natural light floods the interior through the façade. “We used materials that are traditionally found in an old farmhouse – cedarwood, stone, metal, glass and wool,” continues Goodman. “They are used in a luxurious manner here, but they come from a place rooted in the location.”

The 50-cover dining room comprises a mix of seating that includes private dining areas, an extended booth with banquettes and a statement marble table for groups or communal dining. 

A kitchen, open to the majority of the dining space and framed by the pass, offers a theatrical spectacle within the restaurant that allows diners to connect with the food and the way it’s prepared. A huge custom wood grill and range, designed in collaboration with Chris Love Design, forms a centrepiece. The grills smoke, hiss, crackle and sizzle, filling the space with the sounds and scents of the cooking, creating a multi-sensory dining experience that Pickett playfully calls “dinner and a show”.

“People in Melbourne are super connected to food so we really wanted to break down the barriers,” says Goodman. “The emotion of watching a wood fire and cooking together goes back longer than proper language, so we’re talking about a real human origin story here; that’s what we wanted to tap into.”

© Kristoffer Paulsen

Picket agrees: “Cooking over fire is the most primal form of food preparation but one that was neglected for so long. The flavour profiles we get cooking over various timbers – ironbark, red gum, apple wood, cherry wood and pinot grapevines – mean you don’t need to do much else with the produce.”

As much of the menu is cooked over a wood fire, the kitchen goes through around a tonne of timber per week. The steel timber storage – created by the same fabricator who Pickett worked with on elements of his South Yarra restaurant, Matilda – is integrated into the dining room. But As much as Pastore is about the wood fire – think whole grilled barramundi with blood orange and fennel, or 35-day dry-aged bistecca alla Fiorentina – it’s also about the homemade pasta. “My favourite is the pici with a beautiful Tuscan-inspired ragu,” says Pickett. “It’s the ultimate comfort food.”

Native Australian ingredients also feature subtly throughout the menu. A house-cured duck prosciutto is paired with native Davidson plum and Geraldton wax leaves, while the pici dish is seasoned with a sprinkle of salt bush. “Where we can, we use Australian ingredients, but I never want it to be in a gimmicky way,” says Pickett. “We limit it to little touches.”

While Pastore is an integral part of Hotel Chadstone, it was key to give the space its own identity. One challenge came from the fact that the space is not only used for lunch and dinner service but also as the hotel breakfast room. Clever integrated details and functionality ensure that this daily transition is seamless.

© Kristoffer Paulsen

“An even bigger challenge was making sure the spaces connect with its local audience,” says Goodman. “Not every market is keen to dine in hotels and in some markets there’s quite a stigma against it; it’s an uphill battle from the start. That’s certainly the case in Australia, so it was critical that we find ways to ensure Patore was viewed as a freestanding venue that happens to be in a hotel.” As a result, the restaurant entrance is not in the hotel, but rather on the street, and there’s a internal passageway from the guest lifts for easy breakfast access.

“It’s great to see something that started with research in our office in Singapore has been translated into a venue by a world-class chef,” says Goodman. “Real magic only happens at the perfect confluence of strategy, concept, design, culinary execution and great operations. To me, this was one of those right projects with the right team that was able to make that happen.”

Covers: 120
Owner / Investor: Vicinity & Gandel Group
Operator:Accor, Pickett and Co.
Interior Design: EDG Design
F&B Consultant: EDG Design
Executive Chef: Mirco Speri
F&B Manager: Sven Lins 
Glassware: Schott Zwiesel
Words: Mandi Keighran
Feature image: ©Sharyn Cairns
Magazine: Supper 19