Chef Tom Dicker and his team became instant renovators as they transformed a holiday apartment into an oceanfront restaurant at Tasmania’s Bay of Fires.
“We opened this restaurant nearly five years ago [on December 18, 2004] after remodelling one of the vacation cottages on the property. The whole renovation took just three months and to save money, we all got stuck into it. John [Barnett, proprietor of the complex] was a builder and had all the contacts for tradesmen. While he did most of the building, I would have a crack at almost anything—demolishing, painting, ripping up carpet…
“Darren and Anita [Lewis, business partners in the restaurant] also helped, and sourced all the furniture and artwork. Lighting was a big issue and I had to be there every second to position all the downlights, pendants and power points. Although we did it all in six months, it took a lot of work. We turned the two-bedroom apartment into public bathrooms and filled in the carport to install the kitchen. We extended the front wall about two metres and built a four-metre-wide deck. I designed the layout of the kitchen, which flows really nicely. It’s an open kitchen with a porthole—a four-metre opening, which is only 800mm high. It means I can watch the whole restaurant while my waitress is out the back replying to emails. You can also talk to customers through the porthole. They always pop their head over.
“We didn’t have any major difficulties during the renovation, but we realised we needed more storage when we opened. We had to keep some of the frozen food and wine in a mate’s garage at first, but we soon added a six-by-six-metre storage unit.
“We also had a problem with the commercial vinyl floor covering. We were rushing to open, and the areas weren’t prepped correctly. It meant that water got in because the vinyl wasn’t sealed on the joins, but it was more about rushing a project than a faulty product.
“Over the years, we discovered guests were getting sunburnt and the glare of the tables was pretty bad as we face dead-north. So we installed a Vergola roof and now we can guarantee 35 to 40 people dining out there, even when it’s raining. The only other surprise was with the original fireplace. The first time we lit it, the force from the extraction fans in the kitchen didn’t let the smoke go up the flue. It covered the whole restaurant with ash! These days, the fireplace just works as a decorative element!
“We were originally hoping to open the restaurant within three months, but it was quite chaotic. We had a lot of tradesmen stepping on each other’s toes. I would suggest not doing it in such a hurry. You need to project manage the job because you know what you want. Even if you don’t actually do anything, you need to be there so everything will go in the right spot.”