Last night, The Hungry Expat attended the prelaunch of American homeware retailer Williams-Sonoma Inc’s four new Sydney-based stores: West Elm (modern furnishings), Pottery Barn (furniture, home décor, and gift registry), Pottery Barn Kids (kids furniture and baby registry), and Williams-Sonoma (cookware, cooking school, and gift registry). The foursome of shops have all taken up residence in Bondi Junction’s Exchange Building—just across from the Westfield, on the corner of Oxford and Grosvenor streets. The launch marks the first time this fabulous foursome have come together under one roof, and it also marks the opening of the company’s first retail locations outside North America.
The shops officially open their doors this morning at 10 am (right about now!), following a ribbon-cutting ceremony by New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell. Though the retailers seem excited and ready (the shops and shelves looked perfect!), I’m not sure they know what they’re in for with the enthusiastic Aussie shopping audience (remember the queues when Gap and Zara opened in Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall?). I suspect eager customers will empty those perfectly presented shelves in no time. A First World problem for Williams-Sonoma, no doubt.
Attendees to last night’s prelaunch were treated to a tour of all four stores, followed by a casual, stand-up-and-wander dinner in the Williams-Sonoma space and cooking school. For me, what was fun about the tour was not the stores themselves. I’m already a frequenter of Pottery Barn and Willams-Sonoma every time I return to the US and have seen the flawless way they present beautiful bedding, stunning table settings, and other inspirational décor. Instead, it was the joy of feeling that a familiar piece of home has followed me here and of seeing the stores through the eyes of the clearly impressed, excited, and ready-to-shop Aussies. (And on a bonus nostalgic note, one children’s bed at Pottery Barn Kids featured Star Wars sheets that I confess to sleeping on more than 30 years ago!)
A Pottery Barn Kids display you just want to hug!
A sampling for Williams-Sonoma cookware
The dinner hinted at the quality of what you can expect to taste when stepping into a Williams-Sonoma, what you can attempt to cook up yourself with the store’s cookware, and what’s on the horizon for the Williams-Sonoma cooking school. To start, there was a fantastic cheese table (the stuff of The Hungry Expat’s dreams!). Next, we sampled polenta with wild mushrooms, laid out like an enormous metre-wide pizza on a round table (sorry, but my blurry picture doesn’t do it justice), salted-caramel soufflés (the salted-caramel craze continues, with amazing results—and a reason to sign up for Williams-Sonoma’s upcoming soufflé class). If only I’d left room for the crushed-meringue dessert!
The night’s delights (from left to right): crushed meringues, salted-caramel souffles, and wild-mushroom polenta
Williams-Sonoma’s cooking school teaches tools and techniques as well as such recipes as sparkling drinks for the whole family, perfect panini sandwiches, soufflés (see above), and first autumn soup. I’m hoping to sharpen my own knife skills at a complimentary class next Tuesday. Check out the schedule for Williams-Sonoma’s May cooking classes.
Another albeit brief highlight of the night for me was the chance to meet the esteemed Maggie Beer. When I left the US, I was addicted to The Food Network. I didn’t yet know what the Aussie equivalent would be and which food folks I would be keen to follow. Beer was the first Aussie food professional and personality to fill that void for me. I quickly came to admire her and feel connected to her. Plus, I love her Pheasant Farm pate!
For you Aussies outside Sydney, don’t fret. Williams-Sonoma aims to open numerous other stores in the coming months.
For those of you who are close by: Happy shopping! Happy cooking! Happy eating! And let me know what you think once you’ve had a chance to visit the shops.