To dig beneath the surface of the reopening of Gerard’s we caught up with two visionaries, the owner and the architect to unearth details of this reimagined local hero. Johnny Moubarak, Owner of Gerard’s and Gerard’s Bar and Architect, Jared Webb of J.AR OFFICE, explain how on they managed to turn 40 tonnes rammed earth into a sleek, sexy and familiar dining destination that honours the Gerard’s legacy and honest hospitality.
It’s been 11 years since we first welcomed Gerard’s to James St, one of the pioneers behind Brisbane’s food scene, unafraid to own their own unique style and culinary character. Throughout this time the Moubarak’s have continued to drive forward an exceptional dining experience by way of their elegantly explorative Middle Eastern cuisine. An offering nationally recognised for its culinary excellence, having earnt a multitude of accolades. Now, with over a decade under their belt, a renovation was a natural progression – to create a space at one with their commitment to legacy and quality over trend and to an ever-evolving dining concept.
Johnny explains that staying true to the Gerard’s ethos in an ever-shifting landscape is simultaneously the most important and the most challenging aspect of long term success, “Gerard’s has been a great evolution for us all. We have endured lots of ups and downs, alongside so many amazing people. Throughout the entire journey, we have tried to uphold our true self, humility and continue to ask questions about how to learn and become better – this remains the same today.”
Working closely with local Architect, Jared Webb of J.AR OFFICE the newly designed space feels monolithic – modern and yet also historic, hinting at provenance and legacy through the use of robust raw materials combined with sensitive use of light and space. Monumental slabs of raw earth are balanced by slabs of space and light, simple sculptured stainless steel is tempered by soft white leather and warm timber grain is balanced with tactile handmade ceramics.
“This project – unlike others – takes the pre-established essence of a local hero and seeks to reignite. The re-opening of Gerard’s echo’s refinement not reinvention, a considered distillation across both food and setting. It was important that the restaurant didn’t feel new and shiny and remained familiar,” said Webb.
Acknowledgement to, and reference in the design and use of materials have been drawn from ancient structures in Lebanon, with Gerard’s embracing the culture that defines it. Consideration too of the restaurant’s own history and longevity in its James St location.
“We compared Gerard’s perseverance and icon status to the formidable Temple of Baalbek in Lebanon. An amazing stone and earth structure though worn, has persisted. The new Gerard’s embodies this. The James Street ‘OG’ that has been fortified with a renewed permanence in mind.”
“Like the ingredients in the cuisine, each spice identifiable in flavour, so are the materials that surround you. Concrete is raw and unfinished; earth is intentionally rough and imperfect. Stainless steel is exposed and used throughout as contrast. Imagine a tomb like environment with overgrown greenery peeking through the gaps, glimmers of light from above and shrouded on all sides by 40 tonnes of rammed earth,” added Webb.
The Moubarak’s are no strangers to keeping things local, from their choice of architects, to handmade ceramics by Artist, Sally Kerkin and newly appointed Head Chef Jimmy Richardson who is continuing the food-legacy with sensitive, creative and shockingly delicious culinary explorations. This is culinary alchemy, again true to the Gerard’s legacy, forging and following their own path with great imagination and unmatched flavour.
“It took some time to find Jimmy. We had candidates from Sydney and Melbourne, but no one really shone through. Then, Jimmy came along and cooked for us and blew our minds. Out of all of them, he was the most chilled, proficient, well thought out and very calm. Jimmy went deeper than I thought you could go. He almost creates a history lesson and cultural exploration in every dish he creates. It’s not just surface attributes but he really dives into the meaning and nuances of the dish. He has taken what I wanted to interpret from my cultural heritage and pushed it even further – he has delivered far beyond my expectations with the new menu.” said Johnny.
Don’t take our word for it, book in to taste and experience a piece of history.
January 1, 2024