Double Parked at Loading Zone
by The Editor
Loading Zone, situated in the Odgers Lane – the access lane for traders in The Melbourne Building – is the first business to really attempt the lane-way feel in Canberra. Would we discover a fresh injection to the local scene, or instead some sort of contrived urban chic?
Danish urban designer Jan Gehl is considered the father of the Melbourne laneway scene. His concerted effort in the early nineties to breath life into the city’s social scene resulted in a myriad of small, creative bars serving a discerning clientele. Having recognised the potential of such a strategy, in Sydney, with a vastly different pub environment, efforts to achieve the same have been mixed, with a limited number of venues coming and going over the last few years. What then, for Canberra – where red tape and onerous set-up costs hamper the ability to produce so-called ’boutique venues’?
We decided to hit up Loading Zone at exactly 12.00pm in the hope of beating the lunchtime rush and securing a comfortable seat – mistake number one. It was packed, with the al-fresco area for around forty diners completely occupied. The crowd was eclectic: suits, hipsters and the occasional splash of hi-viz wear suggesting Loading Zone was attracting a broad range of curious punters.
The lack of seating was in the end fortuitous. We decided to grab a couple of takeaway boxes of the lamb ragout ($10), and wait on the bench alongside the counter – affording the opportunity to observe the functions of the cafe. The busy kitchen sits behind the tiny shopfront. It looks a simple arrangement, with a chef and assistant busily shifting pans across the burners. There were pre-made sandwiches available for the time-poor, and plenty of pastries for those with a sweet tooth; clearly Loading Zone is intended to run all day.
The real question though – particularly when venues are increasingly employing street art and industrial materials in cafe and bar design – is this: Does Loading Zone feel authentic? We’re pleased to say our initial scepticism was misplaced. Perhaps it was the heavy roll-a-door that hangs over the facade and connects the cafe to its laneway surrounds? Perhaps it was the faux-eclecticism of the limited decorations in the shopfront that suggest the space has been there a lot longer than it has.
In the end, it wasn’t any of these things. It was the absolute absence of pretense that made Loading Zone and most enjoyable experience. As we sat there, munching out of our containers of steaming pasta, we felt as though we were playing a role in the ebb and flow of lunch service. Everyone from the kitchen to the counter to the customers was wonderfully relaxed and comfortable in the space.
In the end, that’s was laneway dining should be all about.
Odgers Lane – Melbourne Building
Monday – Friday 6:30 am – 4:00 pm