Grand Trailer Park Taverna. I suppose there’s a first time for everything. However, being invited along to the launch of a caravan park (sorry, trailer park) as a venue writer I had never put particularly high on the list of possibilities.
It’s the only one in Melbourne city’s 3000 postcode though, so for interest alone I thought it warranted a quick look, sans boogie board and sunburnt kids.
The truth is, the Grand Trailer Park Taverna falls short of what I consider to be a passable family holiday destination. No boom gate, no 20c-activated BBQs, and no swimming. But what it lacks in sleeping arrangements it makes up for in visuals and edibles.
The Grand Trailer Park Taverna on the corner of Bourke and Exhibition Streets is the newest ‘burger & shake’ bar to Melbourne and it must be said, it’s a contender.
For those familiar with the area, it was once Happy Palace, which was a funny sort of a place. Good fun, and happy, but always struggling to nail exactly who it was. Grand Trailer Park Taverna has no such identity qualms.
The first thing you notice when you get to the top of the stairwell entry are the modified Winnebago and Airstream caravans you can sit and eat in. It’s the brainchild of Josh Lefers who is no flash on the hotplate dreamer, either.
His Pawn and Co. on Chapel St is in the top 5 most dazzling bars in the world (Forbes Magazine), and he’s a man for whom time spent getting it right, is time well spent.
He’d had the trailer park concept on the back burner for years, so when he and co-founder Dani Zeini (of Dandenong Pavilion fame) found the space they knew it was a match.
He called in the services of Ash Naulty at Twig and Co. for the refit, and everyone is overjoyed with the result. It was built on a budget, but Lefers doesn’t see this as a limitation, “We were careful not to overspend but instead do what we want to do creatively.
That challenge was a welcome one.” The sound system was retained from Happy Palace, and although Lefers hasn’t written off giving it a boost in the future, for now he says it’s perfect for their needs.
“We’re somewhere between a restaurant and a bar”, and for something that puts a relaxed social environment first, this is apt.
The lighting design required a more rigorous overhaul, and the challenge was twofold — how to create the nostalgic vibe of the caravan park, while fostering intimacy for patrons? The answer appears to be through thoughtful use of multiple lighting zones. The central chandelier of Happy Palace stands, a survivor of the handover.
Zeini took to the kitchen and since they opened their doors has been pumping out burgers to complete with the best of them.
A significant portion of the fitout investment ended up in the kitchen, Josh tells me. “Dani was very keen on making sure we really upgraded the kitchen to something that’s pristine and can make the food we want to make.
“I think it’s the combination of design and the offering itself that makes it a winner.”
Paddy Macrae Twig & Co.: twigand.co