Asphalt Spoils ParadiseHow many times have you had a coffee, wine, beer, or a bite to eat in an Eastern Beaches cafe and bemoaned the traffic separating you from the sea, your search for peaceful ocean gazing destroyed by the asphalt, fumes, noise and scenic horror of the traffic as cars, buses, vans and trucks trundle by, soiling the view? Only the likes of the Bondi Icebergs and the Coogee Pavilion have seamless traffic-free integration with our ocean. Long may they last; I love them.
We need more places to commune with the ocean, free of the sirens of commerce and asphalt spoilt paradise. Isn’t this something that all great sea-bound cultures do – the Spanish, French, Greeks, Carribeans? These would be smaller, more intimate cafes, restaurants and pop-up bars in which to escape, enjoy and enlighten, being at one, enveloped by beach, sea and sky. It is something that everyone will enjoy, and in the future we will all say, “Why did it take so long?” But where can this occur, sensitively and harmoniously, without creating mini Darling Harbours or Wonderlands?
Of course, it’s our bloated, boxy surf clubs that are the answer.
Your humble correspondent, Constantine Theodorakis Gestion, has some experience on this subject. I have been a local surf club member for many years, regularly visit the surf clubland of the Gold Coast, and have just spent two weeks in Biarritz in southwestern France where gorgeous vibrant seaside bars and cafes abound, asphalt necklace free.
Surf clubs don’t currently provide this public service as they’re strangled by red tape, petty politics, selfishness and conservatism. They have the best locations, drop-dead gorgeous views and plenty of unoccupied space for much of the week, and during winter and shoulder periods. They have all the amenities required and generally boast effective management. Pop-ups could also happen nearby in parkland or, God forbid, in the clubs’ asphalt car parks. For starters there is North Bondi, Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly, Coogee and Maroubra. And what about some of the ocean pools – Wiley’s, Mahon, etcetera?
I am thinking my first dish will be kingfish cerviche sourced from the Sydney Fish Market with coleslaw, kimchi and a cool climate Tumbarumba Riesling to wash it down, with a full moon rising over the inky ocean horizon as a backdrop.
Just across the border, the Gold Coast surf clubs do it pretty easily, and sometimes very well, while still conducting their core business of lifesaving, education and ocean sports. Their food, unfortunately, fails badly. Down here we could do it with more style, with less of the Las Vegas big box, battered fish and schnitzels, and more of a French café feel with no poker machines.
In fact, the surf clubs could become the role models for successful commercial diversification and a beacon in the fight against poker machines in all clubs and bars where human values are currently trashed. Let’s demonstrate a healthy lifestyle and sustainable values!
There are multiple benefits associated with converting parts of our surf clubs, parks and asphalt to cafes and restaurants, such as the economic use of grossly underutilised public assets, a source of rental income for the clubs instead of government subsidies, and, of course, a better experience for locals and visitors.
It’s time to get modern. Every- one will benefit. The surf clubs will become more independent. Surf safety and ocean awareness will be amplified. Whales, waves and aim- less watching can occur with no asphalt spoiler. Local economies can flourish from the new reboot and refresh on the coastal walk, a tourist icon of world renown. The cake will grow and be tastier. Competition should not be feared. We need to lift our game.
Imagine what great architects, interior designers and restaurateurs could do with a slice of those big underused seaside spaces. Personally, I would fly a few French Biarritz architects across to set the standard.
A simple design brief could en- sure seamless integration in space, colour and texture. Our history and passion for the sea could be described in fittings, furniture and art. The challenge is on – the past or the future?