As we’re in the midst of Lunar New Year celebrations, it thought it an apt time to take a look at some beautiful examples of modern Chinese-influenced design right here in Melbourne. Who knew it would be found in a dumpling house?
Recently marking its first birthday, Ruyi consciously stands apart from from its fast and furious, often ramshackle Chinatown counterparts. Leaving paper lanterns, crane motifs, and gold flocked wallpaper in the past, the restaurant’s hospitable founders Sheng Fang and Qian Qian Luo-Fang commissioned designers Hecker Guthrie to create something rather more Zen for Ruyi (the agency has also worked on fit-outs for the likes of Elwood’s The Windsor Annex, Saba, Grace Melbourne, Marais, Sass & Bide, Alice McCall).
Blonde wood, polished concrete and far-from-sterile white tiles act as the backdrop for the dining room. Food and drink are served from platters and bowls with earthy finishes crafted by local artist Andrei Davidoff. Pendant lighting designed by Decha Archjananun for Spécimen Éditions provides an industrial/natural contrast via cement and timber. A nod to traditional hues of scarlet and jade are present but muted, emerging in what the designers have dubbed “oxblood and sage tones”. Potted greenery and the odd Chinese ornament add further life. Custom and handmade additions add to the relaxed warmth of the atmosphere here.
The name of the restaurant references good luck charms, and a more refined stylistic approach seems to have paid off in kind, earning Ruyi a High Commendation at the most recent Eat Drink Design Awards for Best Restaurant Design. It’s easy to see why the space caught the judges’ eye. While forthrightly avoiding “old” China, Ruyi has managed not to veer in the complete opposite direction, like so many of the hip Pan-Asian establishments cropping up all over Melbourne with their neon signs, cartoon-ish mascots and quasi-offensive names for dishes. Instead, the space is a serene place to get your Shao Long Bao soup dumplings, Szechuan eggplant fries and (dare I say it, life-changing) fried rice fix, one which is respectful of culture and cuisine.