Vidovic family puts iconic dodecagon restaurant at Red Hill lookout on the market

Hannah Sparks 17 May 2021 35
Carousel Restaurant

Carousel Restaurant at Red Hill lookout was once Canberra’s go-to restaurant for fine dining. Photo: Anthony Vidovic.

There’s a sense of nostalgia attached to the iconic 12-sided building on top of Red Hill. It stands proudly as a monument, in many ways, to a bygone Canberra.

For the Vidovic family that’s selling the two-storey restaurant and cafe, it’s hard to fathom that some Canberrans have never visited or heard of the place today.

This was once the go-to restaurant for fine dining for notable politicians and Canberrans wishing to announce marriage proposals or celebrate anniversaries and birthdays.

Built in 1963 by Croatian Peter Vidovic for £30,000, the restaurant, leased by Onred since 2008, is estimated to fetch between $1.5 and 2 million.

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The sale largely comes down to the fact that Mr Vidovic died in 2004 and his son and daughter live outside Canberra.

“I am heartbroken,” Peter’s son Anthony Vidovic said.

“It’s been in the family all these years and I have strong memories of the place, but it’s too difficult to maintain from Sydney and Melbourne, and neither of us has a desire to move back to Canberra.

“We want to find someone who loves it as much as we do, so that it’s still there in five years.”

Panoramic views

The restaurant offers panoramic views of Canberra. Photo: LJ Hooker.

According to newspaper reports at the time of Carousel’s opening, Mr Vidovic was a “former Melbourne restauranteur”.

However, Anthony said that was a slight stretch of the truth. His father had never owned a restaurant in Melbourne but had worked as the head waiter at several Melbourne establishments.

Mr Vidovic and his wife Lidia then left Melbourne to run the restaurant at Motel Cortina in downtown Cooma.

“It was the time of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, so all the migrants spent their weekends in Cooma,” Anthony said.

“My father, being Croatian, understood the type of hospitality the European migrants wanted, and so there were always musicians in the dining room, and there would be singing and dancing on the tables every weekend.”

It was while working in Cooma that Mr Vidovic heard of the land for sale on Red Hill and grabbed the opportunity to build his own restaurant at the popular lookout.

However, the size of the land – just 66 feet in diameter – was problematic. How could an architect design a building that would comfortably seat up to 90 people and have room for a kitchen, storeroom, cool room and toilets in such a small and circular space?

The restaurant

The restaurant inside has been leased by Onred since 2008. Photo: LJ Hooker.

But Melbourne architect Miles Jakl was not one to think inside the box. He came up with the idea of a dodecagon to not only maximise the space but, more importantly, the view, with windows on every side.

Anthony said his father never trained as a chef but always found European chefs who knew their way around a kitchen and what he didn’t know about food he made up for in charm.

“He picked it up on the go, realised what people wanted,” Anthony said.

“My father loved talking to people and had a knack for remembering everyone’s name. We used to say that if the electrician came to the house, they’d be there for an hour and Dad would have extracted their life story by the end.

“Even people with money and position would come to the restaurant and he’d still chat to them at length and make it personal.”

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Anthony’s mother helped in the restaurant but was mostly at home with the children. However, that didn’t stop them from dropping by regularly.

“It was our second home. If mum was too busy, we’d sneak up before it was open and have dinner, and we enjoyed many birthdays and family dinners there.”

Peter Vidovic and Miles Jakl

Peter Vidovic and architect Miles Jakl. Photo: Supplied by Anthony Vidovic.

The architect who built the Carousel restaurant also built the family’s Canberran home, which has since sold.

But even once the family no longer has bricks and mortar in Canberra, their memories will live on inside them.

The building will be sold by negotiation and expressions of interest close at 4:00 pm on 27 May.

You can view this property at 60 Red Hill Drive in Red Hill online.

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35 Responses to Vidovic family puts iconic dodecagon restaurant at Red Hill lookout on the market
Kay Robinson Kay Robinson 7:10 pm 20 May 21

Years ago

    Julie Rheese Julie Rheese 7:48 pm 20 May 21

    Kay Robinson we also went there pre - children, and we had a family dinner there for Stace's 21st. The view is so lovely.

Julie Rheese Julie Rheese 6:26 pm 20 May 21

We had a terrific mothers day lunch in the restaurant just a couple of weeks ago.

Nick Swain Nick Swain 5:06 pm 20 May 21

When posted on the Canberra & District facebook page there were memories of it as Le Carousel restaurant as the first place there.

Jacqueline Richens Jacqueline Richens 12:52 pm 19 May 21

I worked there when fine dining up top,was beautiful views

Tina Tsiros Tina Tsiros 7:58 pm 18 May 21

Looks better! Hope new owners restore it back!

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:59 pm 18 May 21

A reminder that, for all the propaganda about the Canberra of the past being boring and monocultural etc. etc. (and that’s why it needs to obliterated to make way for a contemporary monoculture) interesting and original things used to happen here.

Martin Smith Martin Smith 5:55 pm 18 May 21

Used to be a top-notch eatery ... not so much anymore. The current cafe staff appear to have given up interest. Maybe the thin air at high altitude is the problem.

    Narelle Lambie Narelle Lambie 6:35 pm 19 May 21

    Martin Smith don’t put OnRed in the same category- food is amazing

Rebecca Southwell Rebecca Southwell 4:18 pm 18 May 21

Angela Mcintyre, and we were talking about this restaurant this morning

Elle Roberts Elle Roberts 2:25 pm 18 May 21

I had my 21st birthday there. 🍾

Sandra Jorgensen Sandra Jorgensen 1:28 pm 18 May 21

Great views

Pat Caldwell Pat Caldwell 11:02 am 18 May 21

Had dinner there a couple of years ago with my daughters. Great view and the food was good.

Jenny Williamson Jenny Williamson 9:30 am 18 May 21

I had my 72 Birthday dinner there last year...😊

Margaret Stamatis-Everett Margaret Stamatis-Everett 8:25 am 18 May 21

Catherine Denice , did Uncle Jimmy see this?

    Catherine Denice Catherine Denice 12:39 pm 18 May 21

    Margaret Stamatis-Everett thank you

    Missed this

Sue Skinner Sue Skinner 6:55 am 18 May 21

I never knew that this existed!

Susan English have you seen it?

    Susan English Susan English 8:58 am 18 May 21

    Sue Skinner yes it has been one of our favourite restaurants for many years! Amazing views and food.

    Sue Skinner Sue Skinner 7:40 pm 18 May 21

    Another walk & lunch when the dust settles!

    Susan English Susan English 7:59 pm 18 May 21

    Sue Skinner sounds good. 😀

Katie Erskine Katie Erskine 9:55 pm 17 May 21

So glad we had breakfast there with you Jennifer Lindley . A great piece of Canberra.

    Jennifer Lindley Jennifer Lindley 7:59 pm 18 May 21

    Katie Erskine Yes it was a great breakfast in a wonderful spot.

Ramon Montero Ramon Montero 8:18 pm 17 May 21

Incredible I worked par time there also my wife in the kitchen the early '70s was so busy every night, very popular.

Melville Judy Brian Melville Judy Brian 7:20 pm 17 May 21

My 21st 1967

Heather Bandte Heather Bandte 6:39 pm 17 May 21

Remember it well, a real landMark, and beautiful views!! Do hope it stays!

Julie Gawronski Julie Gawronski 5:55 pm 17 May 21

Bombe Alaska late 70's!

Anne Meuronen Anne Meuronen 5:27 pm 17 May 21

I celebrated my 16th birthday here with my family in 1976! The first fancy grown up restaurant I had been to and my first experience of an avocado vinaigrette for an entree.

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