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Fathom, Victoria’s newest ocean-inspired restaurant and whisky lounge, has just opened in the iconic Hotel Grand Pacific, and we are bursting with pride over this iconic design+build project! The project certainly was not without its challenges, with all concepts having been initiated right before COVID hit in 2020. Even so, working with the fabulous team at Hotel Grand Pacific, we leveraged obstacles into opportunities to create a stunning space that is sure to be an instant hit in the Inner Harbour.

While the quality of the previous design stood the test of time, after 20 years the restaurant was ready for a refresh. Hotel Grand Pacific Director of Operations, Kirk MacMillan, explains that while they had to put the brakes on the project during the pandemic, the time was used to explore what else was out there in the broader international food and beverage arena. Kirk and Project Lead Sara Peddle, RID stayed in close contact, exchanging photos of concepts until the time was finally right to dive in.

The name Fathom speaks to the depth to the ocean, so wave imagery layered with seafloor topography highlights an aesthetic that transitions like the tide. The bright and airy restaurant is perfect for daytime with its large skylights and arched windows gazing out onto the harbour. As day flows to twilight, visitors are lured into the depths of the dark and moody lounge that strikes an attractive balance of sophistication and warmth.

Kirk’s original inspiration was to separate the restaurant and lounge with two different concepts. He liked the idea of a secret bookcase that would give entry into the whisky lounge. However, everyone soon realized that opening the space would create a shared space that would be much more versatile. Branding under a single identity, both restaurant and lounge could represent the variability within Fathom while maintaining with their own distinct identities, seamlessly transitioning from coffee to cocktails.

Separated from the restaurant by an open bookshelf, the lounge welcomes patrons into a luxurious living room with cozy emerald velvet sofas, Vancouver Island marble topped tables and unique décor from local vintage shops. An ongoing project challenge of supply chain issues plagued the whole industry and kept the team on their toes throughout the construction as items often suddenly become unavailable. Staying nimble and always having a variety of back-up options was a necessity!

The most rewarding solution to these supply chain challenges was to source locally whenever possible. As a result, the team utilized numerous nearby suppliers who do custom fabrications. As preserving the space’s architectural integrity was vital, local precision millwork shop West Isle Industries was brought in to replicate the restaurant’s original panelling in new locations. Local maker Marc deMontigny’s company Toolpath Design used their expertise in CNC machining to produce the CAD-CAM cut metallic screens with the topographical motif. Kirk points out that supply chain limitations also inspired the team to use three different types of locally quarried marble for the bar and tables, sourced through Vancouver Island Marble. Using these local sources also dramatically reduced the project’s carbon footprint by eliminating long distance shipping.

Keeping sustainability in mind, bookshelf décor was purchased at thrift shops, including a 1928 edition of Don Quixote and a copy of Alice in Wonderland from 1949. As Sara says, “You’d never be able to order that off Amazon!” While much of the decor is an evolved version of the original concept, everyone agrees that external limitations forced more creative solutions, so that the final selection ended up being even more refined.

Another good reminder, according to Sara, was presented by the challenge of staying open while under construction. Hospitality never sleeps – only the guests do – and no one wants to eat their breakfast with drilling. Thus, construction needed to happen in phases that allowed the restaurant kitchen to remain a functional space, while also considering the project’s forward-facing appearance – how workers enter and exit the room, and how to keep things clean – so guests could continue to enjoy their meals throughout the renovations. This circumstance allowed Western to develop a ‘best practices’ resource guide for future similar hospitality projects.

After three complex years transitioning this special project from conception to completion, the team was able to watch as guests flooded the restaurant for the first time on opening night of the 2023 Victoria Whisky Festival. Witnessing everyone’s reactions to the transformation made all the effort worthwhile! It was an especially emotional moment for interior designer and construction manager Sarah Munson-Rodriguez, as Fathom was her very first start-to-finish design+build project.

We are so excited about this gorgeous new space called Fathom, and utterly gratefully to the amazing ownership and management team at Hotel Grand Pacific for trusting us with this iconic project. We hope you have a chance to see it for yourself soon!

– photo credit: Mike Pepperdine

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