The seemingly endless Chews Lane project took a small but significant step the other day with the opening of Hush Puppies. While I'd be more likely to frequent it if it sold the eponymous deep-fried balls of cornmeal and jalapeño rather than shoes, it marks a milestone because it's the first retail unit to open in the new buildings.
The other shops in that building look close to completion too, and that was confirmed by a recent newspaper article stating that all the Willis St retail will be open by Christmas, though that looks a bit optimistic for the southern building. I haven't heard any more about the two units that were just identified as "Fashion" on the most recent retail plan, so apart from the relocated Staxs, Area 51 and Farry's, and two places (Identity and Vincent) that I'll probably be revealing my fashion ignorance by saying that I've never heard of, it's hard to tell whether there's anything particularly exciting to look forward to.
The building itself is not looking that exciting either, at least not on the Willis St side. On the Victoria St side, the stepped-out façade and slightly unexpected angles at the upper levels look set to bring a subtle liveliness to the street. Here, though, on what should be the more public face of the project, it looks like the architects have only been let loose on the verandah, while the rest of the west elevation was designed by accountants. It's still a bit early to judge the complex as a whole, however, and when the apartment levels are eventually constructed above the office floors, perhaps the plainness of the latter will look more like well-judged restraint than a lack of imagination.
What I am looking forward to is the food and drink outlets planned for the lane itself. These will take a while longer, though the aforementioned article promised that they'll be ready in time for The Sevens at the start of February. So far, there have been promises of yet-to-be-named sushi and espresso bars (what are the odds that the latter will be a Mojo?), plus the "Gastro Bar" identified earlier on. The one name that was mentioned in the article was Simply Paris, who have been gradually taking over the city with their delicious patisserie, and will be opening a branch in Chews Lane. Some people will sigh at the prospect of another individual shop expanding into a chain, but I for one am looking forward to the prospect of Merguez sausage baguettes, absinthe cocktails and rich cassoulet making their way into other parts of the city.