In order to refurbish quickly and affordably, a couple roped in family and friends for a few working bees.
When Naomi Hart moved to America to follow her dream as a performer in musical theatre, she wasn’t sure how her journey would unfold. She based herself in New York, but to support herself she worked at a restaurant in Manhattan’s East Side. After six years, Gregory Llewellyn, a new and dynamic chef, arrived and before too long, the couple were married and on their way to Sydney to open their own restaurant.
Llewellyn’s cooking background was impeccable—he became a cook at the age of 15, refined his skills at a culinary school, then worked across America and Puerto Rico until becoming an executive sous chef at a series of restaurants in Connecticut. He developed his love of fried chicken, pulled pork and bacon-infused Jack Daniel’s cocktails, he then worked with talented chefs in New York andLos Angeles.
Hart and Llewellyn had a vision of bringing his Americana-inspired cuisine in Australia. They soon made the move and leased a run-down restaurant in the inner-west Sydney suburb of Enmore, despite a severe lack of finance.
For the refurbishment of the commercial terrace, the couple hired their New York-based designer friend, Ashley Couch. “We told her that we wanted the space to feel like an urban homestead and we had an embarrassingly small budget,” says Hart. “Looking back, it’s amazing that Ashley managed to pull it off.”
Hart was keen to replace the “horrible orange” floor tiles with polished concrete but Couch came up with a cheaper option. She had the tiles roughly sanded and scratched them up. “Although they’re still a little uneven, they have a beautiful texture,” explains Hart.
Couch came up with another cost-saving solution to revitalise the rendered cement walls in “overwhelming maroon”. Rather than gyprocking, Couch introduced three different shades of grey and hung a series of large prints on canvas, showing aerial shots of farmlands in Kansas and Missouri.
“Ashley found these on Google Maps and manipulated the image to add a colour boost,” explains Hart.
With an eight-week timeframe, the couple hired a builder friend and Llewellyn stepped in as his lackey. Other family members arrived for weekend working bees, while Hart supplied sandwiches and cookies. “My dad even hand-scrubbed 2000 pieces of plumber’s pipe before it went off for powder-coating,” she recalls.
“It was a wild ride but we were very well supported and had lots of people to bounce ideas off and keep us full of courage and energy,” says Llewellyn.
During this time, Hart sourced replica Tolix chairs and industrial pendant lights from online stores, while banquette seating needed to be ordered.
For Llewellyn, a kitchen revamp was required. “We couldn’t afford to buy a new cool room when we opened, but we soon managed to add it,” he says. “We also have a few more bells and whistles now, such as dehydrators and our third smoker.”
After launching the 35-seater in 2012, Hart and Llewellyn soon expanded by opening a nearby small bar called The Gretz (named after Llewellyn’s great-grandfather) in February last year.
“Our dining room is often full of regulars or other restaurateurs and chefs,” says Hart. “It’s a lovely place to work.”