Opera food battle not over until fat lady signs

Scott Bolles
Manly opening: Merivale's Patrick Friesen, Justin Hemmes and Christopher Hogarth.
Manly opening: Merivale's Patrick Friesen, Justin Hemmes and Christopher Hogarth. 

The Battle of Bennelong might have bloodied noses, with chef Guillaume Brahimi set to depart for the Darcy's site in Paddington while Melbourne's Stokehouse slides into the Bennelong restaurant site, but it is round two at The Sydney Opera House that is shaping up as the bloodier war.

A who's who of hospitality titans are keen to wrest the highly lucrative Opera Bar site from its current operators, Aria's Matt Moran and Peter Sullivan and pub group Solotel.  The Opera House has been coy on the exact timing of the tender, but the ball should be rolling by early in the new year.

A foreign bar operator keen on the site, who asked not to be named, says Opera Bar's current operators will pay top dollar to stay such is the interest in the site.

Justin Hemmes has publicly acknowledged his interest. The Merivale chief, who didn't put in a tender for the Bennelong site, has seemingly cleared the books for a major push, his frenetic opening pace slowing by his standards to a jog. He'll open the doors at Papi Chulo on Manly Wharf in January, but isn't sure when his planned pizzeria will open at Oxford Street, Paddington.

"Papi Chulo is a cool older dude," he  says of the Manly moniker.