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52: 22 - Suri Suri

Name: By Korea - Suri Suri
Address: 1/601 Little Collins St Melbourne, VIC 3000
Owner: Kyu Heo 

Super Tectonics has a love of all things multi-cultural. We have a fond affection for anyone from New Zealand (that accent gets us every time), we outwardly want to be Japanese (the design mentality is genetic) and of late, we have developed a love of KFC – Korean Fried Chicken. And when frequenting our regular Suri Suri Korean restaurant last week, we thought, “let’s Project 52 this place” and even better, let's review it at night - because it’s amazing!

So what’s good about By Korea - Suri Suri?

It doesn’t look like your typical ‘Korean’ establishment, but it’s so Korean at the same time. Nor does it look like your typical KFC but it has it’s own unique aesthetic with some serious thought behind the diner experience and a simple but appreciated attention to detail. 

Located down the Southern Cross station end of Little Collins Street, Suri Suri glows like a lantern after hours, courtesy of its 9-5 neighbours shutting up shop and their dark facades framing the yellow light. It’s a great stop off for a cheap feed on the way to Southern Cross Station, but as you enter through the front door, the cosiness of the space always makes you stay longer than you had originally planned.

The super charismatic and always lovely owner Kyu, designed the place himself, and as was the trend in our early Project 52 reviews, owner/designers of cafes seem to get the best result from their spaces because they live and love it everyday.

The first thing you notice is the height of the space – it’s huge, but Kyu has broken this up with some great dropped ceiling ply panels. These not only provide a mounting element for the down lights, bringing the ceiling plane down lower and staggering it, but they also serve as potentially unintentional acoustic baffles – dispersing noise around the concrete room. The panels are such a cost effective and smart solution to spatially reduce the space without having to put a fully set ceiling in.  The highly positioned wall lighting on the side walls - antique in appearance - tie in with the worn aesthetic of the room and emanate some great light around the space.

The second thing you notice is the distressed timber used EVERYWHERE! There is an effort in creating this look with the repeated ‘X’ timber panelling clad on both walls, wrapping around the behind the counter, onto the dropped bulkhead above the counter space and on the counter front itself. This timber is then used on the tables and high-bars, which would typically seem overkill, but it balances the space well against the two types of great timber stools used and the creamy painted concrete floor, which has taken a beating and still worn well.

There is a great traffic flow through the space, with easy access to the counter for the takeaway clients, great high bar for singles to sit at, or cosy two, four and six seaters all with the capability to be reconfigured for the massive groups of Korean diners who frequent the restaurant all too regularly.

What could be better about By Korea - Suri Suri?

By Korea is a franchise of sorts, and ‘Sur Suri’ is this particular franchise's Little Collins St location, but the two identities make it a little confusing – so consolidating this would make it easier to understanding.

The space has some kitsch elements – which is totally Korean and we love the ‘THANKS’ plates behind the counter, the hand drawn ‘KFC’ and ‘Happy Beer Hour’ signs. This all adds to the atmosphere of it, but Suri Suri isn’t going for a fully integrated brand and this haphazard approach to signage reflects this.

Despite the dropped ceiling panels being a great designed element, the space could actually have less down lights (as per usual in our Project 52 reviews).

The front counter, has a great materiality but as an element it looks scattered and jumbled. The glass cabinet is used for storage rather than display and there’s a lot of ‘stuff’ stacked everywhere which could be cleaned up.  

Lastly, the signs stuck on the front windows block the view inside and to the outside – take these down or reposition them lower, so passers by can see how busy the place is and want to enter!

What’s its thing?

The drop down ceiling panels and suspended bulkhead over the counter area is the best example we’ve seen during Project 52 of successfully reducing the height of the space and treating this as an inserted designed element. Often dropped pendants are used in double height spaces and too often the scale is proportionally incorrect but Kyu has mastered the scale perfectly here.

Defining Design Details

  • Timber stools – Great to see some timber stools that are solid as a rock! (Seriously you can’t move them they are like concrete!)
  • Distressed Timber Panelling – Wrapping it’s way around the café, the variety of colours and varying textures is great.
  • Street Presence at night – That warm glow from the street beckons you in a cold Melbourne night.
  • Exposed ductwork and ceiling services – peeking through the ceiling panels gives the space a nice industrial feel.
  • Simplicity – Kyu hasn’t tried to do anything fancy, but he’s created welcoming atmosphere and that combined with delicious food keeps you longer.

 *Kyu told us that Suri Suri is undergoing a renovation in the next couple of months, so we look forward to heading back and seeing what he’s done and if he takes any of our feedback into consideration