Young developer to bring Flower Drum to Melbourne designer hotel

Calvin Huang is adding high-profile local and global brands to his Melbourne projects, including the legendary Chinese restaurant and New York’s Eataly.Calvin Huang is adding high-profile local and global brands to his Melbourne projects, including the legendary Chinese restaurant and New York’s Eataly. 

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Melbourne developer Calvin Huang is going all out to create a prime hospitality destination in South Melbourne after adding legendary Chinatown restaurant Flower Drum to a new mixed-use tower that will house Australia’s first Philippe Starck-designed YOO hotel.

Mr Huang also plans to bring New York’s Italian food hall Eataly to a site his DCF Property controls at Station Pier in Port Melbourne (as well as a second YOO hotel), while in Tasmania negotiations are under way to open the country’s first ultra-luxury Aman Resort on a coastal farm in the state’s north-east.

Part of a wealthy Chinese family – the Huangs founded Guangdong-based packaging material manufacturer Decro, which listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange at the end of October – Mr Huang said the Flower Drum restaurant was part of a raft of luxury amenities designed to cater to hotel guests and apartment residents at the 28 Albert Road development.

“We’ve already sold $25 million of apartments through our private network. Lots of the buyers are downsizers from Toorak and parents sending their children to private schools like Melbourne Grammar,” Mr Huang told The Australian Financial Review.

The Flower Drum restaurant will occupy one of two ground-floor hospitality spaces focused on “fine food and fine dining” alongside a “vertical spa”. “Think dim sum and cocktails,” Mr Huang said.

There will also be built-in wine storage for each resident and fridges on each floor that will stock freshly made ready-to-cook meals.

“When I come back to my apartment, I want to eat something that is fresh. I don’t want to get Uber Eats, which is always cold,” he said. “We’ve talked to the YOO team and reconfigured the layout for all these services.”

Flower Drum, which won two chef’s hats in the latest The Age Good Food Guide Awards, has been a Melbourne institution since 1975 when chef Gilbert Lau, AM, began serving authentic Cantonese cuisine.

Best known for its dumplings. seafood and Peking duck, Flower Drum won its first chef’s hat in 1980 and has garnered many awards including being crowned Restaurant of the Year by the Good Food Guide five times.

Among its fans and regular visitors is Rockpool’s Neil Perry, who has compared Flower Drum to the best Cantonese restaurants in Hong Kong.

“There is no other Chinese restaurant in Australia like it – and, most certainly, there are none that have stood the test of time for all those years,” Mr Perry wrote in 2015.

The famed restaurant will complement the 88-room Nu by YOO Hotel, which is set to open in 2025. Hotel management company La Vie Hotels & Resorts secured the exclusive rights to bring the brand to the Pacific region.

YOO was co-founded in 1999 by Mr Starck, one of the world’s most famous designers, and property entrepreneur John Hitchcox. The pair have collaborated on residential, mixed-use and hotel projects in more than 36 countries.

Creative directors of YOO include Dutch designer Marcel Wanders, Jade Jagger, the daughter of Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger, and supermodel Kate Moss.

Mr Huang said YOO would also design the $20 million penthouse atop the tower.

In Port Melbourne, DCF has secured the On the Pier event venue next to Station Pier, where the Spirit of Tasmania ferry used to depart from before it moved to Geelong.

Here Mr Huang revealed plans for a new development that will include famed New York Italian food hall Eataly as well as a second YOO Hotel.

Mr Huang said there was a gap in the market for luxury boutique brands and described the influx of big name brands to Melbourne as “generic” in nature.

In Tasmania, DCF is in discussions to open the country’s first ultra-luxury Aman Resort on a large farming property at Musselroe Bay on the state’s north-easterly tip.

DCF paid $5 million last year for the 1473-hectare Icena Estate, where a permit for a $185 million eco-resort and golf course had been previously approved.

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