Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. I was invited by Brand Smart to check out the new offering and received complimentary food and shopping centre vouchers.
Lifestyle, fashion, homewares and dining. That’s Brand Smart shopping centre in a nutshell, or more accurately, in Nunawading. It’s been years since I’ve been out to Brand Smart. The complex recently underwent major, multimillion-dollar renovations thanks to Cox Architecture, glamming up the entrance with wooden beams and throwing a collection of eateries to feed hungry shoppers and locals.
To me, Brand Smart has always been about premium products—mainly fashion—without the price tag. But as a food blogger, I was unsure how Brand Smart related to my mouth. By the time I left the media luncheon, I understood Brand Smart’s new focus: eating out is about the entire experience; from the people you dine with, to the food you eat, to the china you want to lick clean.
Our luncheon was nothing less than luxurious. A driver in a shiny, new Fiat picked me up from East Melbourne and we drove to Brand Smart, which only took 20 minutes (the timing was perfect, I’m in the market for a car to replace my hand-me-down-mini-truck that guaranteed my safety from a premature death when I turned 18). As we glided along the road, he was thrilled to discover volume controls behind the steering wheel, a sixth speed and other gadgets that transformed this fully-grown man into a five-year-old with a new toy.
I entered Brand Smart next to Sushi Sushi, tore myself away from Sass & Bide, and found a white-walled space with a concrete floor, set up with two wooden tables. Each was styled with blue and white cushions, candles, sparkling white plates, silver cutlery and an assortment of flowers. There was a modern, French Provincial feel about the room, but before I could think about it too much, a platter of nigiri and maki from Sushi Sushi found me.
To start, we munched on flaky roti that left a lovely layer of oil on the lips, paired with peanut satay chicken skewers from PappaRich. Angus beef short ribs with thick gravy from Squires Loft Grill followed. PappaRich is an old favourite: I’ve lined up for a seat at their Doncaster store behind Malaysian families craving an affordable taste of home.
It will be interesting to see how Squires Loft fares in the area irrespective of Brand Smart, as it brings Nunawading a much needed restaurant.
Between starters and mains (everyone ordered the tender, pan-tossed calamari served on a bed of rocket salad from Degani—a simple, light dish that hit the spot) I learned about the mysterious world of Mummy Bloggers. Alli from Motivating Mum and Jolie from Hey Bambini explained that when women are pregnant, they often discover a need for products and services that don’t exist, and that pregnancy gives them an opportunity to create what it is they’re after. A lot of these ideas start as blogs and evolve into business models and highly regarded websites. It’s enough to make you put your hand over your heart and swear an oath to girl power. The opportunities that arise from the Internet never cease to amaze me.
After lunch we had a walk around the centre, checking out EMU Ugg Boots and beautiful basics from Cylk. I resisted entering the only discount Priceline in Victoria for fear of never coming out and instead having a peek at Space Café, a coffee pit stop perfect for breaking up a shopping frenzy.
The best thing about Space is the kiddie play area, beautifully designed with cardboard walls, scribbling encouraged. I won’t lie, I was tempted.
By the time we’d looked in a few stores, a selection of sweets from Space Café beat us back to the table. And oh! What treats they were! Gorgeous little lemon tarts and mini cakes topped with chocolate and passionfruit curd perched prettily on tiered cake stands. Even the teacups, teapots and crockery were beautiful, with an Alice-in-Wonderlandness about them.
We were treated to a ‘fashion moment’, a display of three looks put together by Chelsea from I Heart Bargains. My favourite outfit was also the most affordable, and happened to be worn by the lovely Ashleigh Smith, who I went to school with. The smart dress (pictured) was only $25 from Globalize in Brand Smart. If only I didn’t eat so many of those Space Café treats…
Everything from the food we enjoyed, to the plates off which we ate, to the cushions on which we sat, to the clothes we craved were from Brand Smart. But for me, food is where the heart is, and although it was lovely to experience a day in the life of fashion and mummy bloggers, I just can’t get that mouthful of passionfruit curd off my mind.
Brand Smart officially relaunches this Thursday May 2nd, with lots of activities and special events over the weekend. Head to brandsmart.com.au for more details.