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Wild West mood enhances Mexican food

Stephen Crafti moseys on into a new restaurant with an authentic disposition.

Stephen Crafti moseys on into a new restaurant with an authentic disposition.

Mesa Verde, Spanish for green door, is a new bar and restaurant in Curtin House, Swanston Street. Designed by architect Grant Amon, the sixth-floor venue is just below the rooftop cinema. Previously given over to ticketing, the 300-square-metre space was underused.

"[Owner] Tim Peach was keen to strengthen the connection to the rooftop cinema. He also oversaw the aesthetic direction," says Amon, who collaborated with staff including chef Kathy Reed and jewellery designer Marcos Davidson, who created the cutlery.

A key theme driving the design of Mesa Verde is Peach's love of spaghetti westerns.

"One film that particularly resonates with him is A Fistful of Dynamite, starring Rod Steiger and James Coburn. There's one scene in particular, set in a town called Mesa Verde," says Grant Gould, the general manager of this venue, as well as the Rooftop Bar. "But Tim also wanted to restore the space," Gould adds.

In keeping with the panelling found on other levels of Curtin House, Amon reinstated Tasmanian myrtle panelling around Mesa Verde's walls, while stained-oak flooring was also installed.

Central to Mesa Verde's design is the bar. Made from messmate, it is clad in onyx, which is backlit in the evenings.

Given Peach's love of '60s westerns, the bar is brimming with bottles of tequila. And to give it the full western flavour, two cow skulls, also backlit, peer down from the rafters, while the walls are adorned with '60s film posters, many of them featuring Clint Eastwood.

Designed for 100 people - 50 in the restaurant and 50 in the bar - Mesa Verde also includes a semi-private space tucked behind red velvet drapes. Like the restaurant, this area features burnt orange banquette-style seating, as well as Thonet timber chairs, with the occasional Thonet painted in verde.

"This project was slightly different to many of our other hospitality projects; there was a high amount of input from staff," says Amon. "With places like this, it's also important to provide a variety of seating areas, from resting on bars to relaxing in armchairs."

The design complements the Mexican fare, so rather than just looking at posters and spirit bottles, the crockery and cutlery were also fine-tuned. The tin plates are reminiscent of those used by a campfire, and the cutlery appears to have been beaten, twisted and slightly eroded.

"We wanted to create an experience, as much as focusing on the food," says Gould, who refers to verde, or green, in reference to the garden above the kitchen. "A lot of the produce we serve is grown on site in our organic vegetable garden."

Amon also had to create a fully functional kitchen, as well as bathroom facilities. Complete with open steel shelves, the kitchen is partially on view.

The degree of authenticity in Mesa Verde is highly commendable. Although we live in a time of slick music technology, here the record booth plays vinyl albums. And while there's sufficient ceiling light, 1960s oil burners, placed on shelves and tables, add ambience.

"People come here for a certain mood, as well as the fare. At night, there's this wonderful glow throughout the space," Gould says.

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