Susuru Ramen and Gyoza Bar


Restaurateur Taiyo Namba asked for a fun, vibrant space to attract a young clientele and one that could be franchised in the future. Building a strong brand image was therefore important; the concept needed to be striking. Chef Chris Schofield also wanted a space that looked like a Tokyo Metro station. Without being too literal about the reference, Prevalent took certain ideas and elements for inspiration: clean spaces, yellow tiles, lighting panels, rectilinear geometries and the one-point perspective that is inherent in train tunnels and platforms.

Situated in a prominent building from 1906, Susuru enlivens the facade and street. The design breaks away from the traditional mining aesthetic typical of the area. With the introduction of a new and foreign food type to the city, there was an opportunity to design something completely fresh. A predominantly white interior acts as a backdrop to a yellow highlight – a signifier of the brand. To this base, Prevalent added temporary graphic design elements, menu boards, signage, tablet covers and doors that add focal points. These elements are cycled seasonally, much like advertisements that add life to metro stations and train carriages.

Susuru stands out from the rest of Newcastle, aesthetically and functionally. As the city grows and develops, it attracts more foreign attention and new residents who don’t necessarily have the same rapport with Newcastle’s mining heritage. Susuru is for the newcomers, for visitors, and most importantly, for those long-term residents wanting to see the city develop and diversify. There was considerable hardship in creating such a different space in a city that has held onto a past that only the older generations resonate with. The architects were project managing on site every day, merely because the design was so foreign to the city’s builders and tradespeople.

The design originally received public outcry and complaints, but toward the end of the construction process, the locals seemed to turn their viewpoint 180 degrees. Describes Ben Berwick, the founder of Sydney-based Prevalent: “Eventually, a week out from opening, I was standing in front of the building with the head builder at 9pm on a Sunday night (in this sleepy town). We opened the large windows. Ten strangers came over to see what it was. To congratulate on the design. To take photos. A few minutes passed, and there were 40 people on this small section of side walk almost in tears of joy that something was happening in the town that wasn’t just a secondary business decision from a major city offshoot, but a place that could signify creative freedom for Newcastle in the years to come. The builder signalled for me to turn around. There were another 20 people on the opposite side of the street, taking photos. At 9pm on a Sunday in Newcastle.”

Photography: Jan Vranovsky