We had a conversation with Tim Richmond about food, creative communities and the occasional intersection between the two.
What stands out to me initially about Long Play is the wide variety of recreations on offer, whether food, drink, film or music. What was it that made you want to create such a comprehensive space?
I think that comes in part from a desire to nurture your community. I’m a musician and a part of a strong music community so it was important that we represented that in our business. But I’m also a chef by trade and it’s very hard to maintain the venue with gigs and film screenings alone, so we also have a strong emphasis on dinner, drinks, and our venue as a function space.
It’s easy to romanticise the events on offer, but a lot of it comes down to economic survival too. It’s a hard game in inner-Melbourne with high rents and competition, but these factors also motivate us and make sure we maintain high standards and have an array of events on offer.
That balance of passion and economics are definitely key to maintaining a successful business. Would you cite Melbourne’s cultural climate as being a key influence, or do you think Long Play is more a reflection of your own passions and interests?
It’s always going to be a mix of both and context is important as to how things grow; you can’t stay within a bubble.
It tends to be creatively inclined people who gravitate toward North Melbourne, which definitely helps nurture the creative community and has to some extent influenced who we are and how we operate. But people in Melbourne also go out a lot and we have a self-sustaining community of people who both consume and create art. These creative communities help people do things on their own terms without needing to conform to the mainstream.
Long Play is obviously very influenced by the arts, one direct example being the Sun Ra room, named after the American free-jazz musician. I’m wondering what other artists have informed your venue?
Both Adam (my business partner) and I are people who read a lot and avidly collect artwork and records. I guess our appetites for cultural output have naturally manifested themselves into this venue that we independently work for and contribute to. These factors, amongst others, have influenced the interior aesthetic but is not as directly related to particular artists in the same way as the Sun Ra room.
Long Play is hosting five nights of screenings for the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival. What can we expect from Long Play during the event?
Admittedly our input is minimal, all the programming has come from the organisers who have done a great job. Our aim is to provide a comfortable venue that is conducive to the event and hopefully leaves an impression on people.
Well, the festival itself is dependent on venues like yours to host these events, so already you’re doing a lot to contribute.
From our perspective, there are few venues that sit between a large-scale commercial cinema, and something private. There isn’t a lot of places that screen for smaller scale audiences, so we occupy that space and shine a light on slightly more obscure cinema which may have struggled to find an audience otherwise.
Dining is also super important to your venue. How would you describe the food, and what influences the menu?
Well, we have a small prep kitchen upstairs and a tiny kitchen downstairs for cooking, so practicality is a huge part of it. Downstairs is a one man show and there’s pretty much no other kitchen in Melbourne that produces such quality of food in such a small space with only a single chef.
The food itself isn’t too complicated and needs to fit in with the bar. I wouldn’t exactly say Italian, speaking broadly it’s closer to Mediterranean. We tend to have a salad of the day, risotto of the day, raw fish dishes, grilled and wet meat dishes that are easier to share than say a full plate of food that you’d get in some pubs. I’ve actually been making a film right now about oysters which is an angle we are trying to work into the bar.
A film about oysters? That sounds pretty interesting…
Yeah, I actually went to the South Coast of NSW where I interviewed oyster farmers and made a travelling food film. It’s a comedy in the vein of The Trip, but maybe funnier.
An off-shoot benefit of the film is that I now have direct contact with the oyster farmers so we source them directly from the farmers to the bar. I know exactly what date they left the water and it’s a product we’re moving more and more of. Being so passionate about oysters personally, I like that we are moving toward oyster bar territory.
I guess in summary, our food isn’t overly complicated, but it is definitely well-informed.
So it would be fair to say that food is the heart of your business?
It’s interesting because people are happy to fork out sizeable amounts for an evening of wining and dining, but are then reluctant to pay $5 to watch a band perform. So in that respect, it has to be, especially when operating seven days a week.
Having said that some great bands come and play, Totally Mild played a while back and that was really good. Our venue is very intimate which is great, but we’re hospitality professionals and if it weren’t for that we couldn’t sustain ourselves. Though, if a businessman was calling the shots I think the creative aspect would suffer tremendously.
I don’t think you’re wrong there. Just lastly, would you be able to take us through a perfect evening at Long Play?
Sure! I think we’d have a lot of tables booked with people enjoying wines and oysters, an event in the cinema and a function in the middle room with a good party atmosphere and cocktails.
Once the dinner service quietens down we’d dim the lights and the ambience would switch from a restaurant to slightly more of a venue where people can let a little bit loose. We’d have a band perform out the back who’d bring a good crowd of like-minded people and the party would continue till 1am.
It’s that 3 pronged recipe for success. When those three things are firing, that’s when we have our best nights.