EACH night brings something different for Ballarat’s Gorgi Coghlan. One night she’ll be dissecting the day’s news and events as a regular co-host on WIN's The Project; the next she could be working the floor at her new boutique hospitality venture, The Provincial Hotel, with husband Simon Coghlan and hospitality guru Drew Harry.
What was your vision behind the revamp of The Provincial?
We fell in love with the building as soon as we walked through it. Our vision was to restore and respect the incredible heritage and history of the building and bring in a contemporary, fresh element with beautiful fabrics, furniture and art. The feel is playful and sophisticated.
Where did you draw inspiration from when it came to design and styling?
Simon and I love to travel and we're continually getting inspiration from destinations in both Europe and Australia. Halcyon House in New South Wales provided us with ideas on how you can provide beautiful boutique accommodation with an excellent dining experience. We also drew inspiration from the classic French bistros that we love to frequent in Paris. We love how you can enjoy excellent food in an elegant but wonderfully relaxed environment. It's not intimidating. That's what we wanted to create with The Provincial and Lola (the hotel’s restaurant).
Did you and Simon have set roles during the renovation process?
Simon was in charge of the design of the kitchen and we worked together on the design of Lola with our fabulous interior architect Kath Mills. I had a really clear vision of what I wanted for the hotel rooms — stunning playful fabrics, bespoke upholstered furniture and a mix of contemporary and classic artworks. Genevieve Manley helped bring the vision to life and I'm so proud of what we've created. Every single room is uniquely beautiful with its own story to tell reflected through the furniture I've collected from antique shops in Ballarat.
Why did you name the restaurant after Ballarat gold rush figure Lola Montez?
Lola was a force to be reckoned with. An Irish-born Spanish courtesan turned countess, she danced in Ballarat in 1856. She was an extraordinary woman, very naughty, who reminds me of an early feminist. Her money and power gave her uncommon independence for a 19th century woman. She broke all the rules, part-owned a French newspaper and wrote a book (we have her quotes in the restaurant bathrooms). We love her spirit, playfulness and attitude and we thought it was a perfect theme for our restaurant.
How does Lola’s food and wine list reflect the gems of the Ballarat region?
Our head chef Shaun Thomson has worked for Peter Gilmore (Quay) and Neil Perry (Rockpool) and is passionate about working with the many excellent local producers we have in the Ballarat region. He's spent a lot of time connecting with local producers and the feedback we're receiving from our guests has already repaid the investment of time and effort in establishing these relationships.
Are there any other ways you have injected a Ballarat flavour into The Provincial?
Every room has our Provincial Passport – a local guide to some of the best eating and cultural experiences in Ballarat. We are really proud of our city and it's exciting to be able to give our guests so many recommendations whilst visiting.
Do you have a favourite room or space in the hotel?
I'm a green and pink girl and so we designed one of the rooms with this theme and I'm completely in love with it. Our marketing manager Jemma Holcombe jokes that she wants to move into our pink room because it's so divine. I'm really proud of all of the rooms and I absolutely love the restaurant space we've created for Lola.
How do you juggle your TV commitments, parenthood and now a bustling business?
Like any working mum, it gets hectic and I drop balls often (!) but I feel so very lucky to be able to do such exciting projects that really nurture my creative spirit. I balance the busyness with meditation, exercise and time riding my horses with our daughter. Gardening is a huge passion for me and it stills my busy mind.
Finally, what makes Ballarat unique in your eyes?
Believe it or not, I love the weather! You really earn your seasons here, from the stunning still autumn days to snow in winter and sizzling summer nights. I love watching the garden change throughout the year and feel so lucky to live in such a vibrant, ever-evolving and welcoming community.