We are all familiar with the humble food court -- the ultimate melting pot of cuisines. There is perhaps no better place to cater for a variety of tastes while still being friendly to the wallet ($6 butter chicken with a drink, amirite?).
Except the face of the average food court as we know it is changing.
Instead of slightly solidified pasta basking under warming lights, we are noticing an increasing number of high-end food emporiums.
Potentially dodgy sushi joints are being taken over by gyoza bars and dumpling bars and sashimi bars and oyster bars and all the rest of the bars, and it's becoming rarer and rarer to see a Singapore noodle shop jammed between the Golden Arches and the Colonel.
The phenomenon has spiralled so far out of control -- earlier this week it was announced the new Eastland shopping complex in Melbourne plan to launch a
really fancy food court Town Square with some serious names attached -- George Colambaris and Movida’s Frank Camorra and Andy McMahon among them.
“We want Town Square to be a true public space, where you can come and borrow a book from the library next door, pick up fresh flowers or some herbs from the edible garden, and grab a meal at CBD standard restaurants, all in one visit,” Eastland Centre Manager Steve Edgerton told The Huffington Post Australia.
“I think in many respects the standard on offer from restaurants has risen considerably to match this love of food -- it’s no longer acceptable to just deliver a food court experience only. People want more.”
The sentiment was echoed by Westfield spokesperson, Julia Clarke.
"The face of the mall is changing. Indoor and outdoor green spaces, community gardens and even ambient digital features are becoming the norm as the shopping centre acts as a community lifestyle hub."
"Over the last three or four years, Australia has truly become a nation of foodies. More of us are eating and expecting high quality food, meaning the best food courts must offer cultured and curated options – which are moderately priced."
But back to the celebrity chefs. According to a statement released by Eastland, Calombaris will introduce "a new dining concept from his line of popular modern Athenian souvlaki bars, called Jimmy Grants Deluxe".
Movida’s Frank Camorra and Andy McMahon will launch a "vibrant Mexican taqueria, Pacos Tacos" while Dante Ruaini, Jeff Wong and Daniel Wilson will open a branch of their gourmet burger venue Huxtaburger.
"It’s so beyond the old school mentality of a food court, it’s a convergence of dining, community and culture," Camorra told HuffPost Australia.
"The concept is a direct result of higher consumer expectations when it comes to grabbing a meal with friends or family. Especially outside of the CBD, we’re finding guests are much more discerning and sophisticated with their tastes, and expect the food offering to reflect that in an accessible way."
Of course, all of this sounds awesome, but there is one remaining question.
WHAT ABOUT MY DEEP FRIED CHICKEN?
Everyone breathe a sigh of relief -- apparently the new centre will have a more traditional food court as well.