17 May 2021

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

| Hannah Sparks
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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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It was a great restaurant during the time that Lidia and Peter Vidovic were running it ( we were also personal friends). Peter was a great football (soccer) enthusiast. Good luck to the new owners,it is a best spot in Canberra.

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

HiddenDragon6:59 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.

It was a great restaurant and provided inspiration to us when we opened the Tower Restaurant in 1980. It was one of those buildings you looked at and you thought “how did they do that?”

I know that before we moved to Canberra and we came on the obligatory visit to Canberra, when we went to Red Hill Lookout a lot of the kids saw the Carousel restaurant and took many photos of it. When we moved to Canberra in 1970, the locals called it the lemon squeezer.

It was very much like Black Mountain Tower in that you could see it from most of Canberra and it proved to be an iconic landmark and an integral part of our childhood living in the national capital.

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