A unique dining experience brought to you by Melbourne culinary collective Otis Armada.
All photos courtesy of Phebe Schmidt for Otis Armada
Melbourne’s upcoming Brutalist Block Party is a month-long tribute to that concrete-heavy postwar architecture you love to hate. Presented by Assemble Papers and Open House Melbourne, the events series stretches far beyond a base level appreciation of grey columns and warehouses; it’s also a celebration of local food and community.
One such celebration is an intricate five course drinking and dining experience designed by Otis Armada, a group of Melbourne-based creatives interrogating the relationship between installation art and fine dining. Hosting their first event in 2014, they’ve staged a series of ritualistic themed communal eating experiences that honour creative thought and good eating.
Their “Otis. Brutal.” menu will be brought to life by experimental young chef Ali Currey Voumard, who grew up in Tasmania but moved to Melbourne at the age of 16 to work in some of the city’s most renowned restaurants. Currey Voumard will take her cues from the brutalist emphasis on practical form and function over ornamentalism. It’s a concept that strikes a chord in the age of Instagram, where fancy food is necessarily forced to prioritise looks over taste.
Fred Mora, one of Otis Armada’s Creative Directors, explains that the concepts behind brutalism actually lend themselves rather well to those of fine dining. “It’s been really fun to create the menu, because while your initial idea of brutalist food is probably cold gruel, prison food and that sort of thing, what we’ve realised by looking further into the brutalist movement is that the approach is quite practical and functional and lends itself to the style of food we like to make,” he tells The Creators Project, adding, “It’s food that is really true and has integrity.”
Otis Armada source their simple ingredients from local producers, and they have a no-nonsense approach to plating up their dishes. “Flavours are always true to the ingredients used, and presentation is straight to the point. It’s about getting rid of unnecessary garnishes, and being really bold about food,” Mora says.
The ongoing creative fascination with brutalism that fuels events like Brutalist Block Party can be traced back to the architectural style’s perceived ugliness. Mora says these ongoing arguments about looks versus integrity are integral to the Otis Armada vision for their brutalist-inspired dining series. “We’re now so used to seeing food that is covered in flowers and is made to look overly ornamental and decorated. But we like types of food that are undervalued because of how they look: ugly looking ingredients that have fallen out of trend that we think are still really amazing, like roots and tubers.”
Otis Armada place an emphasis on the unique kinds of social interaction that communal dining offers, and the elaborate five course parade of curated dishes and snacks will provide plenty of chances for conversation with new friends. The addition of what Mora refers to as “an authoritarian seating plan” promises to change things up a bit, too. “The majority of brutalist buildings ended up being educational institutions or government buildings,so there’s an office-like feeling of control, and that will be reflected in how people are made to sit on the night. I think it will be really fun to see how people respond to it and interact.”