7 Alfred Place
7 ALFRED PLACE HISTORY
After the Eastern Market was built, on market days the area was crowded with gardeners and their greengrocer customers, some of whom stopped off, no doubt, at the Adam and Eve Hotel on the Alfred Place corner. [Weston Bate, Essential but unplanned, p.40]
No 7 has a distinguished history. Designed by renowned German-born Melbourne architect John Augustus Bernard Koch and purpose-built in 1885 as the official premises for The German Club, the original façade is recognisable for its fine Renaissance-revival leanings. During this period, the concert hall (reincarnated today as Comme’s Grand Room)- with its dramatic high ceilings- is said to have been the preferred lecture venue for eminent German-born botanist, Baron Von Muller, whose influence remains ingrained in Victoria’s ecological fabric.
In 1920, ownership passed to The Naval & Military Club (1920 – 1967), prominent members of which included Sir John Monash (president 1921-31), Sir John Lavarack and General Sir Thomas Blamey. The Naval & Military Club employed architect Philip Hudson- renowned chiefly for Melbourne’s Botanical Gardens’ Shrine Memorial- to embellish the buildings interior, considering its classic design heritage, with the addition of the grand staircase and stair hall (now vestibule).
The structure’s penultimate and, perhaps to a contemporary audience, most culturally significant prior inhabitant was the iconic Mietta’s Restaurant, whose residence spanned years 1985-1996, a decade which was highly formative to Melbourne’s culinary growth. The building’s first level- which now encompasses the fluid Comme Kitchen/Wine room space- was home to Mietta’s ‘Lounge Bar’; a conceptual space which prided itself on the deconstruction of the dining experience, certainly a frontrunner for Melbourne’s prolific café-culture, where the intimacy of atmosphere was provided at no expense to the quality of cuisine. Mietta’s restaurant was a focal point for the arts in Melbourne, specifically in its later years, playing host to the full gamut of entertainment from internationally famous opera singers such as Yvonne Kenny to, musical groups, comedians like Wendy Harmer and creative social forums.
In 2004, Comme’s administration and design team delivered number 7 to its present-day manifestation with the refinement of such classic features as the original façade and hardwood flooring in the Grand Room, and embellishment of its sophisticated interior with sumptuous furnishings and the addition of modern-yet-timeless statement pieces such as the stunning Murano glass Chandelier. At Comme, the heritage-listed building is divided for ultimate flexibility into three key venues; downstairs with Comme Kitchen and the Wine Room providing casual-yet-refined dining and drinking facilities, while upstairs the exclusive Grand and Onyx rooms accommodate a plethora of events ranging from corporate conference-style to the most decadent and intimate of personal occasions.