Townsville is getting a much-needed facelift, and one of the first glimpses of things to come will be unveiled in the inner city as early as August when Bridgewater opens to the public.
Bridgewater is the next culinary creation for experienced JAM restaurateur and chef Matt Merrin and is set to be the waterfront dining experience Townsville has been waiting for. It will be one of the first restaurants and bars to open along the Townsville City Council’s Waterfront Priority Development Area, which takes in the banks of the Ross Creek from the city skyline to the Breakwater.
“Imagine a cool inner-city waterfront tapas bar on the ground floor – Bridge Bar – and on the upper level our stunning Bridgewater Restaurant,” Matt said. “The restaurant will offer guests an opportunity to enjoy beautiful food and a fresh new outlook across the waterfront, CBD and Melton Hill either at lunch time or as sun sets, and into the night.”
Named for its proximity to the George Roberts Bridge and Ross Creek waterfront, Bridgewater’s ambiance and décor will have an elegant coastal feel across both levels. “The building design needed to connect and extend from the original building that has sat empty for nearly 10 years since it was built in 2008,” Matt said. “The original building was not very functional at all, now we have a venue that is practical, flows and takes advantage of its location.”
Matt said one of the project’s objectives was to employ and support local businesses wherever possible when bringing Bridgewater to life, which led to engaging Zammi and Mark at Counter Point Architects, Laneyrie Constructions and STP Engineers for the bones of the project. To date, over sixty local businesses have been supported with the construction and fit out of Bridgewater.
“The logo design was by Hunting House who are conveniently located just around the corner from JAM,” he said.
“As we move into the fit out, Concept Tiles provided a great amount of options, I can’t wait to see the new bar front tiles installed. Janiene from Finishing Touches is assisting me with the interior styling, and other local businesses contributing include NorFab and Well Hung Glass and Aluminium.”
“It’s a great way to connect with other businesses’ in the region and support local jobs.”
Matt admits the local hospitality industry is doing it fairly tough, with this year starting slower in some cases than previous years.
“The restaurant will offer guests an opportunity to enjoy beautiful food and a fresh new outlook across the waterfront, CBD and Melton Hill either at lunch time or as sun sets, and into the night.”
“Over the last few years we have seen a lot of changes in the local hospitality industry,” he said. “The main change is the number of new casual dining experiences on offer, from cafes, themed eateries and the casinos new venues. One area that we have not seen change or grow is the refined/upmarket dining experience. Bridgewater will be the first new restaurant to open of this calibre in years.
“Travelling around Australia and the world you see a lot of cool inner-city bars on the waterfront. The ground floor The Bridge Bar will offer affordable menus options and the opportunity to have a relaxing drink while soaking up the views.”
Both JAM and A Touch of Salt hold Australia Good Food Guide Chefs Hat Awards, which Matt admitted is unusual but exciting for a regional centre.
“I don’t know too many regional cities in Australia that can boast that. It is not easy; it takes dedication and commitment. Michael from ATOS and I have worked on a number of events together, I hope other young chefs get the chance to do the same.”
“Working together assists us to become a better place, Townsville should be proud of the quality establishments we have,” he said.
Bridgewater will also create job opportunities for Townsville’s youth with Matt explaining that hospitality is a good place for young people to start, with many entry-level positions offering opportunities for growth and career development.
“At JAM we have created a team that grows with the business,” he said.
“Kieran, our Operations Manager, will be overseeing both venues – he started as a casual backpacker waiting on tables. Ty started out as a kitchen hand at JAM, worked his way up to Head Chef and has invested to become a business partner at Bridgewater.
“Too often the industry gets a bad rap about poor wages and conditions. You might start off earning the minimum wage, but it’s up to you to work hard and stand out. Eighty per cent plus of our work force is youth and we are about to embark on a huge recruitment drive to assist us growing across two venues. Townsville is set to grow; the sooner you get in and have experience, the more opportunities come your way. “