After six years, Arbory team reveal Her as their five-level Lonsdale Street mega-venue

The team from HQ Group inside BKK, one of the venues within their new project Her at 270 Lonsdale Street, set to open in ...
The team from HQ Group inside BKK, one of the venues within their new project Her at 270 Lonsdale Street, set to open in December. Photo: Arianna Leggiero

The team from Arbory Bar has revealed exclusively to Good Food the name and details of their multi-venue 270 Lonsdale Street project, set to open in December after six years' work.

Called Her, the huge site with a capacity for 550 people encompasses four distinct venues showcasing artwork, music and hospitality, with service running from morning until late at night, just steps from Swanston Street and Melbourne Central.

Parisian-style ground-floor brasserie Her Bar, headed by chef Josh Rudd (ex-Asado), will serve everything from breakfast to nightcaps. The European-inspired plates will defy snack, entree and main categories. 

The site at 270 Lonsdale Street (the cream building with arched windows) was built in 1903 and was a cigarette factory ...
The site at 270 Lonsdale Street (the cream building with arched windows) was built in 1903 and was a cigarette factory at one time. Photo: Simon Schiff

Two floors up, BKK will be a smoky, spicy and theatrical Thai eatery in rose-gold hues, turning out skewers, som tum, khao soi and curries, many of which will be cooked over fire by head chef Sungeun Mo (ex-Red Spice Road) in the open kitchen. Executive chef Nick Bennett has collaborated on both menus.

Sandwiched between the dining are two bars: the Music Room is a sumptuous American walnut-panelled space designed specifically for sound, while on the piazza-like Her Rooftop, pink and grey marble checkerboard tiling and a zinc bar are the backdrop to 180-degree city views, Paloma cocktails and snacks from BKK.

It's the most ambitious project to date from HQ Group, no mean feat for a team that also creates the Yarra River's floating Arbory Afloat bar afresh each summer. 

"The concept of a hospitality group taking over a whole building is quite daring and quite rare," says marketing director Georgie Larkins. "But our vision has been really simple: to create a place for everyone, a place that's fun and exciting and new."

The team say the name Her refers to the "feminine features" of the building built in 1903, once a cigarette factory staffed by women.

Each venue is connected by a bluestone-paved staircase that features a lighting installation by Herve Descottes, who also designed lighting for linear park The High Line in New York City. Her Bar showcases work solely by women, including a 10-metre triptych by contemporary Australian artist Eleanor Louise Butt.

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Care has been taken in every detail, with custom furnishings in all indoor venues by designer Dion Hall. Hall also designed The Music Room so guests feel as though they are inside a speaker. Modelled on the listening bars of Tokyo, it features thousands of records selected by local DJ JNett and a three-console DJ booth where guests will play regularly.

Chef Bennett, meanwhile, designed the Zesti oven set-up for BKK, complete with charcoal wok burners, to replicate the flavours, smells and sounds of Thailand's markets. Much of the dining room is devoted to kitchen counter seating to give the best view of the action.

Located opposite Emporium and close to Swanston Street, the team say Her is a celebration of living in the city, with neon light from digital billboards filtering through windows, a 3am liquor licence and a something-for-all-comers package of drinking and dining. 

A fifth venue will open within the building early next year.

270 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, her.melbourne