sugar prawn is the new eatery by some of melbourne's discerning party people

Speaking to Fred Mora from art co-op Lucky Prawn about his beautiful new Malaysian restaurant Sugar Prawn.

by Savannah Anand-Sobti
30 July 2015, 6:45am

Alan Weedon

Taking over a space on Smith Street in Collingwood, the young, innovative crew behind the recently reopened Malaysian eatery, Sugar Prawn, knew just what was needed to spice the place up. Drawing inspiration from the bold colours and spirit of eating in Malaysia and Singapore, the space is a truly collaborative project between five partners. The first thing that strikes you are the colours: the pandan green, saturated oranges and yellows and a perfect hue of baby pink sets the tone for the Sugar Prawn experience. You can also expect a fine selection of music to accompany your order of Chilli Crab. i-D spoke to one part of the team, Lucky Prawn's Fred Mora, to find out more.

What made you want to open a restaurant?
It happened completely by chance. I don't think any of us involved, apart from Travis our head chef, ever thought we'd open up a Malaysian restaurant. The opportunity came to Hugo Catskins [the man behind some of our favourite clubs and venues like Hugs&Kisses and Magic Johnston] first. It's a big undertaking but because we've got a lot of people involved and a lot was already set up in terms of the venue and licensing it made it more manageable. This was great because it actually left us free to do the things we wanted to do - the design and the hospitality: how you eat here and what it means to eat here.

You mentioned one of your business partners runs a record label, is that where the music element came into play?
Hugo and I were pretty set on it. We have these big bay windows and we really wanted to use them to capture people walking past. To us eating and music go hand in hand. A lot of people can't afford to spend 6 hours at a nightclub but they still have a passion for these DJs. I think it's a really good approach and it's starting to catch on. You can sit back, relax and listen without the fatigue, being in a nightclub, having to dance or it being 4AM. 

What are the plans for the music?
Well that front booth is going to be called Sugar Prawn radio - it will play music in the restaurant and become an online radio station. We really wanted to engage the restaurant; for example have a microphone where the DJ speaks to the restaurant and engages them, not just in a musical way but as an MC. It's kind of zaney but I think when people go out to a restaurant they're not just going for the food; it's also about entertainment now. We want to make people feel involved.

We want to pair the food, the music, the wine, everything all to the DJ and have it tie in nicely. I think it'll be really fun. 

You guys are both pretty young to be in the restaurant biz.
Yeah and in many cases I think our inexperience may work in our favour because when you are young you can make the mistakes that people wouldn't dare too. There's no reason to fear opening up businesses as long as you do it in a really thought out way. There's nothing stopping you from being as successful as someone who's 45. I think it's about just having the confidence to do it.

I know you've just opened but what are your plans for the future?
We have plans to open the basement eventually. We want to turn it into a Malaysian street down there, create hawker venders and have little bars where people can drink. We really want to recreate a real hot street vibe that we loved in Malaysia - dirty, crazy and wonderful.


Text by Savannah Anand-Sobto
Photography by Alan Weedon