“The site in Circular Quay was originally an Indian restaurant. It was not very well laid out so we stripped everything and started from scratch. It was an extremely compact development that would ultimately seat about 70 people. As space was at such a premium, many operational items had to be shoehorned into corners, nooks and joinery. There’s not one tiny piece of the space that’s not functional.
“The couple who own the restaurant, Ross and Sunny Lusted, wanted the space to have a highly designed space with Asian and Scandinavian influences, all with a bistro feel—effortless and very accessible to the lunchtime crowd yet perfect for fine dining in the evening. Ross was involved in every detail of the design.
“The 1930s building has a strong Art Deco influence. I knew I could overlay the contemporary elements while preserving and celebrating the original character. This includes a curved facade, fine steelwork windows and parquetry floor. When you’re inside the space now, you feel you’re unquestionably in that building.
“Ross has a very specific cooking style so the kitchen needed a total redesign. We converted it from a closed kitchen to an open one but it also had to change in size, dimensions, proportions, functionality and appliances. Ross is actually elevated so he can watch the staff and, most importantly, he can watch the clientele. He can see how they’re reacting to the experience—who’s coming and who’s going and how happy they are. There’s some interaction as well, he can give people little knowing nods and it really appeals to the customers.
“The small space needed to be extremely efficient for the wait staff. With big spaces, you have to deal with travel distance but with small spaces, you have to make sure people aren’t crashing into each other. I’ve made sure there’s enough space to move around and the wait staff are never far away from the kitchen.
“When collaborating with Ross and Sunny on the furniture, we came across a beautiful oak dining chair—Autoban’s ‘Deer’ range with black upholstery (available form Spence & Lyda, spenceandlyda.com.au). The feel of the chairs is continued through the dining tables, plus a recycled timber wall element that wraps around the kitchen.
“At the front of the restaurant, there’s a round table right in the window with a dramatic ‘Coco’ pendant light, designed by Kate Stokes (available from Corporate Culture, corporateculture.com.au). The table has a rotating shift of artwork, while various floral sculptures by Tracey Deep are positioned throughout the room. We also designed a white wall element made of folded felt that’s both decorative and plays an acoustic role. The design of the restaurant works beautifully any time of the day. The food is so good and it’s been so well awarded that it’s become a destination restaurant for lunch and dinner.”