Sydney Restaurant Closures
It's been a while since I'd been back to Sydney, one of my fave dining cities in the world. Planning to go back there again soon - maybe end of the year or else early 2013.
But it's been distressing for me to hear about high-profile closures in Sydney in the past year. My list so far include:
- Ad Lib
- Berowra Waters Inn
- Bird Cow Fish
- Cotton Duck
- Manly Pavilion
- Montpellier Public House
- Smith's on Bayswater
Any others which Sydney CHs know about?
Don't forget about all the new openings in the same period. The headlines may make depressing reading but lots of new things coming out, Appolo, 4Fourteen, Sixpenny, Black by Ezard, The Bridge Room, the new Arras and Momofuku are obvious examples.
I also think the tales of a depressed dining scene or massive shift from quality are unfounded. The Beccasse/Etch/Charlie & Co demise seemed to be a result of over expansion and too much investment in fit out, the Berrorwa Waters/Ad Lib demise was over expansion with the second Ad Lib being a restaurant too far (in double bay), and places like Tabou, Pier had simply come to then of long lives. It will be interesting to see how Pier II (i know it isn't called that) goes with the new format. I also think there was a bit of greed in the market, prices got very punchy, with value props out of Synch, Bilson for example was very exy in a pretty dreadful space, and his wine bar, whilst good was also poorly located (under Goldfields House).....sometimes the fundamentals do matter.
And let's not forget the small bars - lots happening in those spaces including food. I loved the Tacos in Stitch for example.
I think the closures were sad because, I guess, deep down inside, I just didn't want things to change. I still remembered going to Becasse the first year it opened - there was such a special feeling in the air.
Berowra Water Inn was also very special for me, and each trip (I was there only twice) seemed magic.
By the same token, I wish Rockpool & Bather's Pavilion will go on forever. It was tragic when Cheong Liew closed The Grange in Adelaide 3 years back.
I'm of the contrary view. If they aren't innovating, then they should close before they dribble off into obscurity like a senile great-aunt. The Grange was terrible in the last few years of its life, and it only closed because of a bullet to the head from John Lethlean.
We all have yearnings for places as we remember them. Unfortunately, it isn't always that good for business.
But, of course - in the Grange's case, it *was* tired, but my wish was for it to evolve to continue and meet the demands of the consumers.
The same thing happened in Singapore in the mid- to late-90s when the economic slowdown saw an entire generation's fine-dining institutions close down within a few months of each other: Le Restaurant de France, Truffles, Hubertus Grill, Les Duc, Maxim's de Paris, Les Brasserie, Baron's Table, Palm Grill, etc. At the time, Singaporean diners were moving onto a more casual /bistro-like dining approach, and one that did not require us to don a jacket just to eat there. But I thought Sydney dining in those years (1995-2000) were some of the most exciting then.
Today, a decade & a half later, the Singapore market seemed to be returning to high-end dining, with the opening last year of Guy Savoy, Wolfgang Puck's CUT, Mario Batali's Osteria Mozza, Daniel Boulud's DB Bistro Moderne, Joel Robuchon's fine-dining restaurant and its more casual L'Atelier, Tetsuya Wakuda's Waku Ghin, Jason Atherton's Pollen, etc. New restaurants seemed to be opening every other week. That's why Sydney's restaurant closures these past few months came as quite a surprise to me.
Hopefully Sydney stays homegrown, do you think it's a bit sad that all the new Sing ones are branches of international chefs empires? I think Sydney's closures are less to do with economic times but more to do with poor financial management and business skills. Yes there is a move to casual but it ain't cheap, small bars are rammed with punters quaffing $15+ cocktails, and the big boys like Quay and Rockpool booked for months - it used to be just Tets.
I will miss Beccasse and Berowra waters and others. But I won't miss Justin North's Charlie & Co his burger offshoot from the Beccasse empire. Very hyped by the blogosphere but pretty average food. Come to think about it the Becasse group did do a lot with the Bloggers - shows their market power....!