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52: 24 - 1000 £ Bend

Name: 1000 Pound Bend
Address: 361 Little Lonsdale Street
Web: http://thousandpoundbend.com.au
Served By: Lil

One half of Super Tectonics has only lived in Melbourne for a year and a bit (the other tall, bearded half was born and bred here, despite a 5 year hiatus in the land of Brisbane) but in the short time I’ve been in this wonderful city, you learn about the iconic places. The enduring places, the places that seem like they have been around forever and, 1000 Pound Bend is one of them.

So what’s good about 1000 Pound Bend?

If you want to be taught a lesson in atmosphere – walk through the somewhat obscured, graffiti clad front doors. The ceilings are high, but the light is low. The people are many, but the feeling is spacious. This is the kind of place that caters for staying. Which in itself is a great aesthetic move, but for hospitality establishments, it’s always difficult trying to get that balance between wanting your patrons to stay for a while, but not too long so you can get another paying customer to the table. Thank fully 1000 Pound Bend has balanced this perfectly.

Arriving at 1000 Pound Bend is easy. You walk through the doors on an old carpet hallway runner leads you to a perfectly positioned timber credenza in the middle of the space complete with a gorgeous vase of fresh flowers and collection of street mag paraphernalia. The carpet stops here and creates an impromptu waiting zone, which cleverly locates customers so staff can see the newbies and greet them promptly. This is one of the most successful unsigned arrival/waiting zones we’ve seen thus far in Project 52 - and the 1000 Pound Bend team have designed this effortlessly well.

The interior aesthetic is what you would call ‘loved’. Some others may call it unfinished, or dirty even, but in talking to the manager Lil, she advised us that majority of the furniture in 1000 Pound Bend is actually re-used from the old St Jerome’s. Yes, as in THAT St Jerome’s Bar, the humble Melbournian bar that birthed the original and first St Jerome’s Laneway Festival which has now turned into a national touring musical juggernaut. Old mirrors with beautiful old blue St Jerome’s typography printed on them, scratched and wearing with age. Foosball tables, gold framed paintings, long timber benches, booths, and an eclectic mix of chairs, ornaments, lamps and stuff makes you feel like you are in your 20-somethings friends share house - and this is a great thing. 

The variety of used objects, worn surfaces and layering of things on walls, ceilings, behind the bar and everywhere means that the despite how much you clean everything in the space, it will always feel dirty. It will always feel like a bar after hours even when it’s 10am in the morning and you are waiting for your poached eggs. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s actually quite smart in hospitality where everything needs cleaning 24-7 to look it’s best, but it just means you attract a particular type of crowd.

Lil was saying that due to the free wifi, students were (as students do) using this to the maximum and causing a slow turnover of tables, so they then introduced ‘Lap - Top Land’ the large open warehouse space behind the café/bar itself where students are encouraged to buy a cheap coffee and in doing so they get two hours free wifi. A collection of tables and chairs out in this back area frees up tables for paying customers and still keeps the students happy in their own space.  This is such a smart use of the huge open area out the back during the day that is otherwise only used for private functions at night.

The Bar is tucked in the far back left corner and it looks just like a bar, however hidden behind tactile inducing blue carpet clad front, is a fully functioning kitchen which is impressive. Despite the size of the front café/bar itself, the kitchen is small but it seems to somehow cope at full capacity despite the small work area. Add to this some clever joinery and storage elements along it’s ends and you can see that the café /bar has evolved over time with the careful guidance of experiences hospitality kids.

What could be better about 1000 Pound Bend?

As mentioned, no matter how much you clean this place, it will still look dirty.  Both a negative and positive depending which way you look at it. Waiting for our breakfast t cook whilst we were there, the far end of the space became quite smoky from something delicious cooking and it was then that we noticed the lack of exhaust over the kitchen. For an establishment this size, when you are cooking at capacity an exhaust fan is a must – although it does give the space an authentic smoky feel – just from bacon this time not ciggies.

The kitchen and bar area also serves as a pay and order area (table service happens most of the time however). The issue with this is that 1000 Pound Bend do lots of coffees and consequently a commercial stainless steel catering bench positioned to the side of the bar is where all the coffee action happens. It’s location stops direct access through to the laptop lounge provide a great screen here, but it still sits in limbo and as a result feels compromised.

What’s its thing?

The 1000 Pound Bend team want you to stick around in here. They want you to stay seated, use the furniture, be in the space – well at least for two hours based on the free wifi! But it’s rare to have that welcoming feeling in an inner city location, so kudos to the 1000 pound bend team for being so god damn nice!

Defining Design Details

  • The Space – typically in Melbourne cafes, space costs a premium. But 1000 pound bend has lots of it and they fill it.
  • St Jerome’s Furniture - For those that long for the good ole’ Melbourne day, you can still park your booty on the iconic bars furniture – albeit in a new location.
  • Lighting  - we were wetting our pants with excitement - beautiful lamps and indirect lighting everywhere.
  • Smoking area – a fun closed of and concealed smoking area that keeps things smoke free and separate. 
  • They have another function area upstairs – we’ve been there for movie nights and it’s awesome!