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Char Char and its counter partner Chargoal opened their doors last October and they've been steamrolling ever since.
Located in the prime position under WIN Stadium in the heart of Wollongong, there really isn't anything quite like it. Char Char prides itself on being a modern Australian restaurant but with a twist. That twist comes all the way from Africa.
There is an apparent connection between our two continents here. And they pay great homage to the spices and tastes of traditional African meals, not to mention that meat is a major focus of what they promote.
I spent some time in South Africa a few years ago and it was exciting to see that I can now enjoy the things I loved about their food right here in Wollongong.
It was refreshing to meet co-owner of Char Char Bar & Grill, Charlie Daoud. He, like many of us, didn't grow up in Wollongong but he now calls it his home. Charlie is a man with many hats. Not only does he run this successful restaurant, but he's also a builder and this has paid dividends in the design and construction of Char Char.
The design brief was to create a space that oozed warmth, where groups could gather and feel as though they'd completely left their dining rooms and entered somewhere new, far away.
There is a strong representation of recycled materials used; one of which are the bricks that line the open viewing kitchen. These bricks were sourced from an old train repair centre in Sydney and, if you look closely, the coloured bricks show the professional graffiti that once tagged the old building.
Everywhere you look, Charlie has a story to tell about the items and materials that make up the interior of this space. The wine barrels now used as bar tables were snatched up from the Hunter Valley. The custom-made lights are a feature that line the façade of the space, made from recycled beer bottles with industrial value components.
For Charlie, it wasn't just about going to scrap heaps and collecting bits and pieces to recycle. He put an emphasis on using upmarket, solid and proven materials to create his look. This is evident in the solid Oregon timber bar and ceiling timber rafters, which are laced with ivy.
A lot of the materials were sourced locally or found in nearby Sydney but my personal favourite items are the pre-WWI electricity meters that sit proudly on the brick kitchen wall.
I love treasures like this and they have pride of place in the restaurant.
Both Charlie and I agree that the culture of Wollongong is evolving. People want more of a casual dining scene without having to go to a nightclub or football club. The people of Wollongong are well travelled and no longer do they want to keep eating the same style of food over and over again.
The emergence of the trendy bar and restaurant has begun and already the appreciations are flowing in. That sense of escapism is what makes a good bar or restaurant a great one.
Recreate the look
If you’re looking at creating a rustic feel in your home using recycled materials then do the hunting first.
It’s no good picking up any type of timber and then realise it’s bowed, water logged, termite infested and unusable to make anything good out of it other than firewood.
Look for timber that shows it’s still strong and easily adaptable should you wish to cut it, screw it or bolt it together.
Railway sleepers are one of the most commonly recycled timbers because of their hardiness and longevity. There are a few companies that sell them ready to go and you can pick them up between $25-$45 a length, depending on the quality.
They look stunning remastered into a fireplace mantel, wall shelving or as a garden bench.
If you know of a restaurant or retail space that contains an interior not to be missed, then email me at email@example.com
Sarah Nolen is a designer from Birdblack Design. Check out birdblackdesign.com.au.