Design aesthetics of a restaurateur

By Zoe Walker

Restaurant owner Mimi Gilmour tells us what feeds her creativity.

Mimi Gilmour, co-owner of restaurants District Dining and Mexico. Photo / Babiche Martens
Mimi Gilmour, co-owner of restaurants District Dining and Mexico. Photo / Babiche Martens

A talented, stylish twosome is behind two of Auckland's favourite new eating establishments, District Dining and Mexico. Mimi Gilmour and husband Warren Turnbull returned to Auckland from Sydney last year, opening the two restaurants near each other in the burgeoning Britomart precinct - and will soon open a second Mexico restaurant in Takapuna.

Each space has its own distinctive interior, with delineator Nat Cheshire and business developer Nick McCaw working on District's elegant fit- out which features art from Gilmour and Turnbull's collection plus a mural from local artist Scrap Wall, while the eclectic Mexico features work from Christchurch artist Brendan Ryan. Gilmour tells us more about some of her favourite things.

10 FAVOURITE THINGS

1. Shoes

I have a complete obsession with shoes, they are "my thing". I have a lot of shoes I don't wear because they are impractical with all the running around I do at work, but I keep collecting them.

2. Antipodean Woman

Brendan Ryan's painting Antipodean Woman. With 30 years of experience, his eye for detail and innate sense of colour brings life and soul to all our venues and lives.

3. Mexican floral headbands

We recently opened Mexico and while I was trying to figure out what the girls should wear, I watched one of our gorgeous girls, Greer, who wore flowers on her head, and thought how beautiful she looked. All the girls at Mexico now wear them and I get an endless stream of comments about how beautiful they look - I agree.

4. District Dining

Apart from the delicious food, what I love most about District is the beautiful interior which was a collaborative effort between me and two of my talented friends, Nat Cheshire and Nick McCaw. There is a little bit of all of us in the design; a wonderful art collection, brass sinks, and a lot of custom joinery designed over many a coffee. I still pinch myself every time I walk in there.

5. Bird on a Wire

My gorgeous sister Sophie has opened an organic rotisserie chicken "joint" on Ponsonby Rd. It is so yummy - who doesn't love roast chicken? They do a hot chicken roll with tarragon mayonnaise which is to die for.

6. Luke Jacomb glass

I've always had a slight obsession with coloured glass, which I adopted from my mother. I met Luke recently through another talented friend, Scrap. Luke and his wife Katherine Rutecki are passionate young glass artists and I am slowly collecting as many pieces and I can.

7. Design magazines

I love all design magazines, but especially British Vogue, Elle Decor Italia, World of Interiors and Denizen. They are all very aspirational and help feed my need to create.

8. Richard Orjis photography

Richard was my mentor at Elam and is a treasured friend. We have a Richard Orjis photograph which takes pride of place on the wall at District Dining. It's called Flower Idol and our customers always seem intrigued by it, as am I. It is never fails to captivate the mind...where does this idol come from and who are they to me?

9. New Zealand fashion designers

After living in Sydney for the past five years I am really enjoying indulging in local designers Miss Crabb, Jaimie Boutique and Juliette Hogan once again. You can never go wrong with a good frock. I always have a stash on hand at my desk for any last minute changes.

10. The Kiwi Tavern building

It housed my mother's restaurant 30 years ago and is now home to Mexico. I guess in a way I was destined to return. I can't believe that in the five years I was living in Sydney, Britomart has developed to become an incredibly international, vibrant precinct full of great hospitality offerings. It's an absolute pleasure coming here to work every day.

- NZ Herald

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