As evidenced by the recent re-emergence of farmers’ markets and restaurants based on food miles, there is a strong movement towards dining experiences grounded by local flavour and feel. Located just on the edge of Hobart’s CBD, Garagistes is a wine and food bar that embraces the spirit of these locale-based movements through its produce and its interior design.
At the point at which this old garage became available, restaurant co-owners Luke Burgess, Katrina Birchmeier and Kirk Richardson had been scouring Hobart for some time. The existing interior was very rough around the edges, but it matched a venture that they always hoped would retain a “rogue element.” The name Garagistes – drawn from a maverick group of Bordeaux wine makers – sleeved perfectly to the space.
With only one power point, no lights, a sawtooth roof, exposed timber beams and painted brick, the garage offered character in spades. The trio entered into a collaborative process with Paul Johnston Architects, with all members engaging in a hands-on evolution of the design. Richardson took the lead throughout the construction phase, selecting materials and developing details in collaboration with Johnston, Burgess and Birchmeier.
The intention was to create a discreet dining space that would be found via word-of-mouth rather than walk-by trade. True to this idea, the entry is defined by minimalist signage on a large, dark, steel-clad pivot door, which is open when the restaurant is serving. The equally dark, low ceiling portal beyond this door serves to separate the dining space from the street and establish contrast with the lofty dining room. Apart from the structured entry, the remainder of the interior reads like furniture placed within a tall, stripped-back container. The bar and kitchen are part of this room, separated only by a long servery bench. This openness was a priority for chef Luke Burgess, who wanted to maintain visual connection to his guests, gauging their reactions upon first taste. He also wanted cooking staff to enjoy a naturally lit space for working.
Critical to the concept is a series of shared tables for diners, furnished with hand-thrown crockery by Ben Richardson. The robust but minimalist Tasmanian oak tables designed and made by Evan Hancock run across the space, seating ten each on custom stools by Dieu Tan. At a conceptual level, this layout reinforces the team’s interest in the Danish idea of hygge, roughly translating as cosy, relaxed intimacy. Pragmatically, it establishes an environment where the food sells itself, with adjacent guests able to share impressions of the cuisine.
There is a directness and honesty to the interior of this restaurant that has emerged from the concept and the budget. By choosing pre-finished materials – like the red-edged form ply of the side wall, the charcoal Echopanel for the ceiling, or the hot-rolled steel cladding of the rear service zone – the team has refined but maintained some of the raw character. During the day, the skylit space is tactile and alive, while at night focused lighting softens the semi-industrial finishes. I’m particularly fond of the way the steel cladding takes on a velvety appearance when cloaked with shadow and I applaud the choice of ceiling cladding, which creates an ideal dining acoustic. Most of all, I love the small, illuminated window into the curing room, which transforms hanging meat into an artful folly, while subconsciously reminding diners about the ideas of time and proximity embedded in the culinary approach.
- Design practice
- Paul Johnston Architects
Market Place, Hobart, Tas, Australia
- Project Team
- Paul Johnston, Erin Rockliffe, Kirk Richardson
Gavin Burgess Builders,
Graphic design Sheila Alati Design
Seating design & construction Dieu Tan
Table design & construction Evan Hancock
- Site Details
103 Murray Street,
Site type Urban
- Project Details
Category Hospitality, Interiors