Melbourne is renowned for little laneway treasures – filled with fabulous finds that you stumble upon, off the main drag. I discovered Chuckle Park a couple of years ago, chancing a sideways glance down an alleyway that literally stopped me in my tracks. SURPRISE! (Love it when that happens.)
I instantly etched the location into my brain, never to be forgotten. And literally hundreds of people do the same thing every day. As I was there recently, madly scribbling notes about the quirky design for this review, I lost count of the number of people who walked past, did a double-take and uttered with a huge grin, “Whoa – what is this?!” It’s hard not to high-five yourself when you unearth awesome like this place.
Kyle Bush, Co-owner and Creative Director behind the restaurant and bar’s fascinating design, says this discovery element is priceless publicity. But the venue’s wow-factor came from gritty beginnings. “It was horrible. A disgusting, smelly laneway,” says Bush. The entrance to New Guernica nightclub, which Bush co-owns, was accessed via this laneway. “We had this space and we wanted to do something with it.”
Due to fire safety codes and other restrictions, the design had to be limited to temporary fittings – nothing structural that couldn’t be readily uninstalled. Bush conjured a holiday camp concept – with the mobile caravan being suitably transient.
“We headed out to Echuca and bought the smallest caravan we could find from some old guy. We ended up having to resize it anyway,” explains Bush. The caravan was modified on site, and the foundations of the venue’s design concept was set.
Astro turf was laid underfoot, hanging gardens and wall-mounted planters packed with greenery, and the walls lined with timber panelling. The seating was originally camping chairs. “They looked awesome, but just weren’t practical,” says Bush, who replaced them with the equally impressive bright red Tolix stools. The silver caravan was shrouded in artificial flowers, and animal statuettes dotted around for a punch of kitsch.
Neatly stringing it all together are the overhead lights, criss-crossed through the open air like a whimsical web. “We made them out of fairly lights and some jars – it took about three days,” says Bush.
Bush’s talent is now beautifying several venues around town, and his approach remains the same. “We tend to do it all ourselves… if it doesn’t already exist, we make it.”
Chuckle Park is open from midday until late daily, so it makes for a brilliant mid-shopping pitstop or post-work drink. The menu is non-pretentious, non-expensive, and tres tasty and wholesome. The pulled pork roll ($11) has a reputation for excellence amongst the CBD suit set and and the spanish lentil salad ($9) is a hit with the ladies.
GO HERE IF
You’re mid-city but want to experience the creativity and edginess usually only found outside the CBD.
SIX WORD SUMMARY
Laneway Caravan Cool With Whimsy & Wow
Snacks from $5, light meals from $9. Cocktail jugs $35. Cash only.