Short black

No bistro: "Bennelong is what the people want it to be," says Guillaume Brahimi.
No bistro: "Bennelong is what the people want it to be," says Guillaume Brahimi. Photo: Nic Walker

Opera House gets tough with tender

Sydney's appetite for accessible eating could claim its biggest fine-dining scalp yet - Guillaume at Bennelong. The Sydney Opera House restaurant site goes out to public tender this week, the first of several venues at the iconic arts centre up for grabs, and the person overseeing the tender process has made it clear eating will be favoured over dining. ''Research shows 57 per cent of performance visitors want a mid-priced bistro option, only 5 per cent want fine dining. We'd love a bistro-style place in there,'' says David Watson, the Opera House's commercial director. With the owner of Quay and Otto Ristorante, Leon Fink, and Felix Bistro owner Justin Hemmes both rumoured to be scoping the site, where does it leave the current operator, Guillaume Brahimi? ''I really hope he does put in a tender; he operates successful bistros in Melbourne and Perth,'' Watson says. ''He's done a wonderful job [with it] as a fine-dining restaurant, but we want the Opera House open to more people, more often.'' Brahimi isn't convinced a bistro is what the site needs. ''I tried what they are talking about when I first came here - it didn't work,'' he says. ''I've been here nearly 11 years, I know it better than anyone … We're full, I'm happy with where we are. If anything, I want to be more unique.'' Veteran Sydney diners will remember the failed attempts at the site before Brahimi's arrival. He also points to the availability of cheaper food elsewhere at the Opera House. ''Bennelong is what the people want it to be, and they want it to be a fine-dining restaurant,'' Brahimi says. He will join the tender process, with the winner to be announced later in 2013.

North shore suburb getting a cockie attitude

Gordon. You heard right. The once beige upper north shore food destination is picking up pace with some opening action. The change is still at a jog rather than a sprint, but a new bakery on the strip has been followed by a tapas bar. Heydeon Young, the former owner of La Goulue in Crows Nest and chef at Bond in the city, is in the kitchen at the newly launched Two Stews and a Cockatoo. The interior looks great, with a big bar and birdcage light fittings. Young says the name refers to the owners, Nada and Tony Stewart. ''I might be the cockatoo. Actually, there's one on the bar,'' Young says. Aye, me hearties. You'll find it at 741 Pacific Highway, Gordon.

Hats off as Pavoni departs troubled city Westfield

Two hatted chefs gone, one left. That's the depressing form guide at Westfield Sydney, where twin-toqued Italian chef Alessandro Pavoni has joined Justin North as another casualty at the shiny central business district shopping centre. Pavoni opened Spiedo in 2010 at the then freshly redeveloped Westfield, rebranding it six months ago as Pizza Six in a last-ditch effort to reboot it with a more accessible offering. It didn't work. Last week the chef handed back the keys. ''I've come to an agreement with Westfield,'' Pavoni tells Fairfax. ''I don't have time for it and haven't been in the kitchen there. I want to put all my effort into [his two-hat restaurant] Ormeggio at The Spit.'' No word yet on a new operator taking the site, but Pavoni's departure is a worrying trend. Westfield lured some top-shelf Sydney cooking talent for the redevelopment. Former Perama chef David Tsirekas continues to fly the flag at Xanthi, its presence now a must for the centre's dining credentials. The team at Aria was close to taking the rooftop space to open a bar but pulled out of the deal.

Worrying trend: Alessandro Pavoni is the second hatted chef to leave Westfield Sydney.
Worrying trend: Alessandro Pavoni is the second hatted chef to leave Westfield Sydney. 

Mystery solved: Percuoco has left the building

City-centre diners last week were asking if chef Mario Percuoco, son of Buon Ricordo's Armando Percuoco, had called time on his Bent Street restaurant Acqua Pazza? The restaurant's phone line was inoperative, and Mario didn't return calls left on his private number. The chef opened the restaurant in late 2010 after departing Intermezzo restaurant at GPO earlier that year. Alex Berentsen from Colliers International was able to confirm its closure. ''The tenant did walk away, we've been appointed by the landlord,'' he says. Berentsen says higher-end dining with a steep price point is difficult terrain in Sydney's city centre. It doesn't sound like it'll be empty for long. There are already three food and beverage operators interested in the site.

Bali tastes like Sydney

Soon it'll be possible to holiday in Bali and eat only at restaurants connected with Sydney restaurateurs. Everyone from Neild Avenue's Robert Marchetti, Andy Ruwald at the Bucket List and Paperplanes at Bondi are involved with new restaurant launches in Bali this year. But there's an older brigade stamping a dining footprint at the holiday destination. Dean Keddell, a long-term presence in Sydney restaurant kitchens has been in Bali seven years, but only recently opened modern Asian eatery Ginger Moon. It is already getting some promising reviews, so put it on the growing list of places to visit.

Two for the road as Glebe shows signs of recovery

Hands up who thinks the Glebe dining scene has been feeling a little, well, tired? Finally, there's some action to report. And, while it isn't a rash of new eateries, a small, promising posse of new players is rolling into Glebe Point Road. A new Italian restaurant, Ombretta, has applied for a liquor licence at 355 Glebe Point Road and La Boheme is headed for the strip. Tony Gibson, the former head chef at Astral, has been working in the kitchen at Despana, a new tapas bar, while he looks for a site in the city for his New York deli concept. ''The area is going ahead,'' Gibson says. ''The Little Guy [small bar] is booming and some young [people] have just taken the old a'Mews site.''

Clarification: The original version of the story gave the name of Ombretta as Ombra.

Mugshot: X74

Good for ... the neighbourhood.

Coffee ... Allpress Espresso.

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It looks like a cafe, but X74 acts like a neighbourhood bistro. So there are eggy breakfasts, good Allpress Carmelo-blend caffe lattes ($3.50) and a scary-sounding Muscle Shake of protein powder, banana and honey, as well as house-made pasta, great burgers and a short but meaningful wine list from old hand Tim Hughes (Catalina) and young chef Nathan Holowell.

10 Bream Street, Coogee
9665 2222