Address: G23/620 Collins St, Melbourne VIC
Owner: Tae Won
I knew it was going to happen… we’d go to a place that we want to review and I’d get this voice inside my head saying “don’t do it! Keep this one to yourself!” But you know what – Project 52… it’s like a code, man. I’ve gotta stick to the code – if we go to review, then we review. Oh, but we’re actually busting the code slightly. This place is not really a café. It’s the super-amazing-wonderful K-pop wonderland that is Chick-In.
So what’s good about Chick-In?
You’ve got to ‘know’ about Chick-in – it’s so Melbourne. You’ll never just walk past it and think to yourself ‘yeah, I’ll come back and try that some time.’ You’ll stumble across it. It’s down a lane, off Collins St, behind Spencer St and totally non-descript from the outside except for the super cool light box sign hanging above the entry.
And it feels like the two owners found the storeroom of some other building and saw the opportunity for a place for a Korean chicken bar.
When you enter and cast your eyes around the simple, yet playful design it’s almost obvious that the person who put this design together understands the fundamental design principles. So it’s unsurprising to find out that one of the owners is in fact an architect. (He also happens to be owner of Seoul Soul in Richmond) It’s a sophisticated space, yet fun.
The first thing you encounter is the tiles. They are a great choice and wisely used. Patterns for high traffic areas where there’ll be lots of dirt, and simple grey for the seating areas. It’s a layout designed by someone who understands what gets super dirty and what doesn’t.
With long ply-topped benches in a gloss finish and a neat bolt gable detail the layout of the space is comfortable and circulation throughout is easy and uncramped. There is a good balance of seating to circulation. And it’s great to see a café/restaurant that isn’t using Tolix stools! There is only 1 type in this place – they’re industrial and provide a consistency across the rest of the material palette.
When you sit down it’s hard not to touch the copper folded beam pendants hanging over each table. They have an amazing lustre about them, provide a really nice light over the eating surface and are at a perfect height – in fact they didn’t even interrupt my eye line, which at my height is greatly appreciated.
To the rear of the space is a wall of poster graphics. This nicely balances the other rendered cement walls and show the finesse of someone who understands how to design in small spaces. There is also a rather neat counter and back of house. The counter is definitely on display and there is no room for any excess as there is nowhere for it to hide. Luckily the staff keeps this extremely tidy. In fact all the little details seem to be nicely considered from the joinery with chalkboard painted overhead cupboards to the face mounted sliding door between the dining area and the back of house.
This place is so damn efficient and just so damn cute. Even the business card is special with a custom chicken shaped card ready for distribution to interested customers.
What could be better about Chick-in?
Speaking of business cards, we found it a little bit tacky that there were cards stuck to the lovely copper pendants. We’re purists! Keep the pendants clean, unadorned.
We also thought that the bar fridge for the draft beer could be somewhat better disguised. It looks a bit like an afterthought and sticks out a bit like a sore thumb in an otherwise well considered space.
Also in the corner where we sat to write our notes I was sitting beside the extra copies of the Epoch Times and cases of Coke. We would absolutely suggest getting this excess stock out of the dining area and hidden away from customers. It’s a small thing, but makes me feel a bit like I’m eating in the storeroom rather than a restaurant.
Admittedly there is a few things a bit funny about this place. It’s kind of hard to read the hand written opening hours on the front window with the wire mesh behind it (vinyl applied graphics in a colour would definitely stand out more), the glowing drinks fridge just inside the kitchen isn’t the nicest object to look at whilst sitting at some of the benches and when someone smokes outside there is pretty average ventilation so the smoke tends to linger around inside the restaurant itself. But hey, nothing’s perfect! And Chick-in is actually pretty fun.
What’s its thing?
It’s random. It’s down a low traffic lane. It’s in what seems like the storeroom or garage of another building. It’s extremely well considered from a design perspective and it’s Korean, it’s Chicken and it’s beer! Do you seriously need anything else?
Defining Design Details
- Lighting – there is multiple different types of lighting used to great effect in this space. The pendants over the benches. The signage at the entry. The desk light over the counter and a few more around the space.
- Consistency – this place ain’t playing no tricks. What you see is what you get, and it’s all very well considered.
- Fantastic graphics – we’d love to know who came up with them! They really pull you into the back of the space and get you through the ‘door’.
- Location – Melbournians love a whole in the wall, and at the moment a whole lot of Korean food and a whole lot of beer. This place has all three.
Korean food is totally the big trend at the moment with Korean restaurants popping up all over the place. And we want Chick-in to survive – so go and check it out