BALLARAT Business quizzed Sam and Elise Rowe about their new enterprise, The Hydrant Food Hall, Ballarat’s laneway culture, and what they love about this vibrant regional city.
BB: What led you to open The Hydrant?
Between us we have years of experience within the hospitality industry, our most recent venture owning and operating a cafe on the waters of the Docklands in Melbourne. Elise grew up in Ballarat from the age of 10, leaving after completing high school to attend university and graduate with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Consumer Science). During these years, she supported herself by working within restaurants and cafes. Sam boarded at St Patrick’s College before moving to Melbourne to begin his hospitality career, managing and working in pubs and hotels.
BB: What was your vision?
To create an industrial warehouse food hall where many demographics can comfortably dine alongside one another. To produce and execute delicious food supporting local suppliers, deliver beautiful smooth coffee, provide a space that is all inclusive for families and available for evening functions.
BB: What attracted you to the building (The Hydrant occupies a former fire hydrant shop at 3 McKenzie Street)?
Its heritage, years of stories to tell, the fact it is off the beaten track, its warmth and character.
BB: Was it important to pay homage to the building’s history?
Ballarat is full of history! The people of Ballarat are proud of its history and we felt it was our duty to respect this buildings part it has played over the past 100 years. Part of the history is evident in the building, and our diners are always intrigued.
BB: Has Melbourne’s long held laneway cafe culture influenced the use of Ballarat’s laneways?
The opening of venues within laneways is broadening the mindset of what is possible, showing people the hidden gems that would otherwise not be known of, and encouraging the interest in Ballarat history further. It also instills a sense of ‘hip and funk’ in people to be dining somewhere different to other venues on street frontage. On a greater scale, the Melbourne laneway cafe scene backs all of this up and shows the people of Ballarat just what is possible when we all work together to create something great for locals and tourists.
BB: Why do you think Ballarat is flourishing as a food destination?
We have some fabulous hospitality people in Ballarat, each doing their craft and doing it well. The food destination is becoming well known due to the hard work of Visit Ballarat and others to create events to draw people to the town, showcase small business and therefore local suppliers.
BB: What do you both love about the city?
Aside from the wide range of dining options, we love the friendliness of the people, the ease to move about the town, the beauty of the manicured gardens and lake, the gorgeous housing, the offerings for our family, and the genuine investment that locals make into promoting the town.
This story is from the launch edition of Ballarat Business magazine. You can read the entire magazine online here.