Remembering Joyeux

Remembering Joyeux

The property at 366 Albert St, East Melbourne, lies on the north side of the street between Lansdowne and Clarendon streets.

The house was built in 1909 for the Rev. Llewelyn David Bevan on the land which had once been the garden of the neighbouring house, No. 364, which Bevan also owned. The house is built to the footpath, unusual for its time and the East Melbourne area.

It was a single-fronted two-storey house of red brick with cement mouldings, now painted. A crenelated parapet hid a gabled roof, and a rough cast cement frieze runs below the cornice. Now in 2023, only the façade remains.

When the Rev. Bevan moved with his family to Adelaide, nos. 366 and 364 became a boarding and guest house called “Wellpark”. Bevan died in 1918, but the buildings remained in the family until 1949, when both were sold.

They continued to operate as a boarding house until 1963, when they were again sold. No. 366 was let out to Vagne Ove Gunness, born in Denmark in 1918, who had served with the Danish Resistance throughout World War II. He migrated to Melbourne in 1948 and from 1963 to 1974, operated the very popular Bims Restaurant, introducing Melburnians to Danish cuisine and considered to be the first restaurant to serve “foreign” food.

Perhaps the most popular and socially prominent lessee was Lady Joy Snedden, wife of the Speaker, Sir Billy Snedden, in the House of Representatives. She was well known in her own right, sitting on the Board of the Australian Ballet, a member of the Australian Council, a probationer on the Committee of the Royal Children’s Hospital and a foster carer to “a couple of babies”.

With her four children; Drew, Mark, and twins Fiona and Fabienne, grown to adulthood, she chose to set up a French styled restaurant at 366 Albert St. The name “Joyeux” was declared in lights above the handsome copper doors of the mansion, the name chosen by Billy Snedden to honour his wife’s talents.

The restaurant became the favourite destination of Melbourne’s food cognoscenti. An article in the Australian Women’s Weekly on December 9, 1981, the most popular magazine of its day, described the décor …

“Lady Snedden invites you to partake of some elegance, in a décor of pink and grey, lit by Victorian lamps and to dine upon French delicacies from rose-petalled plates, in an atmosphere that will be ‘joyeux’.”

While Joyeux lasted only four years as a restaurant, it is sad to see the destruction of such a fine mansion. Today no. 366 exists as merely a façade, an appendage for a much larger office and apartment block building. Its days of social glory are gone. •

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