Manager Tara Poelaert, wife of chef Nicolas, reveals how they transformed a space into a chic modern French-inspired restaurant—in just four days.
We took over the space that was Andrew McConnell’s 312. We’d just returned to Melbourne after working in Europe for a few years. Nic [Poelaert] started working for Andrew at Circa, and when Andrew said he was ready to sell 312, we knew it was a perfect opportunity.It was the kind of thing we used to talk about—opening something not too big and something with character. The restaurant is a converted two-storey terrace house, which is about 100 years old. Apart from the main room, there are two rooms upstairs including a private dining area.
“From the kitchen point of view, we didn’t need to change anything. It’s quite small but was well equipped. For us, changing over was more about making it our own— adding our own personality. When we took possession, the style of each room was different. We wanted to make it our own, so we did a lot of painting to give it a seamless effect.
“Our budget was limited so we couldn’t afford to hire design consultants. Since our food is all about simplicity, we made the interior equally simplistic but sophisticated. The dark chocolate tones and soft white—in Gentle Touch from Dulux—drew inspiration from many French buildings.
“After getting the keys, the restaurant was up and running four days later. It was quite manic—but we just got stuck into it, painting, changing light fittings and all the other touches. We found two modern chrome chandeliers at an interior store nearby, and we thought they would be funky in the main room.
“The oil paintings on the main dining room were chosen as a representation of food, cooking and wine. One of the major decisions was installing curtains in the front window to replace the existing dusty cargo net. I was having trouble justifying the expense, so my cousin took me to Spotlight, and then made them himself. So many people have commented on them, I don’t think we’ll change them.”
312 Drummond Street
Carlton VIC 3053
Tel: (03) 9347 3312