If you’ve walked down Broadway in Ultimo, opposite Notre Dame, perhaps a small hanging sign winked at you in the sun. Every sign has a story and this one is no exception. The building from which it hangs looks a little out-of-place on this busy Sydney thoroughfare. For one thing, there is no shade awning (required by law in this sunburned country), furthermore, the giant old-fashioned wall lamps would look more at home in Paris or Berlin (or Essen, for that matter). In fact, this is Essen Restaurant & Beer Cafe. Many years ago, it was The Stonemasons Arms, a public house built by convicts and later frequented by them. The building has a colourful history, which you can find out more about here.
But back to the sign. There’s something unusual about the typeface used for the word “Essen”, but it would take a typographer to notice it. Can you see what it is? The top half of the word is a clean, sans-serif while the bottom half is a traditional German Blackletter, resplendent with serifs and spikes. The type is like somebody wearing a suit jacket and Lederhosen, only subtler.
I wanted this identity to capture the German character, but also to demonstrate a shift from traditional to modern.
Sander Dijkstra told me, referring to the logotype he designed. Sander is a native of north Holland, as is Essen chef Geert Elzinga. Imagine their surprise when they discovered that they had once lived only twenty kilometres apart in the old country, only to meet up in Sydney! They don’t call this “The Lucky Country” for no reason.
Once Elzinga was happy with the logo design, Dijkstra fleshed it out into a full-fledged identity for the restaurant, including the menu, packaging, and even emblems for the bar taps:
The sign was made by us, in case you were still wondering. But of course, a sign can only bring customers through the door once. It’s the food and the service that brings them back again. “Essen” means “to eat” in German, and that’s really what the place is all about. So, next time you find yourself walking down Broadway in Ultimo, take a minute to glance up at the Essen sign. Or, even better, follow the example of photographer and food-lover Peter Georgakopoulos, and join the homesick Germans within for a tall glass of Radeberger Beer & a Schnitzel mit Jagersose!