''It feels like home,'' says Guillaume Brahimi, as he meanders between the tables stacked with new napkins, gleaming cutlery and porcelain bread plates on the top storey of his eponymous restaurant.
The celebrated chef, who bid au revoir to the Sydney Opera House six months ago, will open the door to Guillaume in Paddington on Saturday with the conviction that fine dining is alive and well.
''It’s very healthy at the moment. People are talking about the trend of share plates, but that’s been around forever,'' he said. ''People want value for money, and even with fine dining, degustation and fine wines, you can still get that.''
New data shows a polarisation of spending patterns among Australian diners, with big spenders forking out bigger amounts while mid-range spenders tighten their their purse strings.
In the past two years, average spend among those who dined more than $80 per person lifted 6.7 per cent to nearly $93 per diner, according Dimmi, which provides online booking services to 2500 restaurants across Australia.
This is in stark contrast to mid-range diners – those spending $40 to $80 a head – where the average spend fell 3.4 per cent to just over $49 per head.
Restaurant and Catering Australia chief executive John Hart said this increase at the fine-dining level reflected the prevalence of set price degustation menus, while the decrease in the lower tiers was caused by the shift towards tapas and share plate offerings.
In ''old style dining'' settings, people were also increasingly cutting out or sharing a dish from the conventional entree-main-dessert combo to save costs, he said.
''BIS Shrapnel says about 48 per cent of people now have two courses of dinner and only 12 per cent still have the typical three. It’s a very, very low percentage.''
Paddington was the suburb in Australia where people spent the most money on food in the past year, Dimmi data showed.
In second spot is the postcode of Potts Point and Woolloomooloo, where the average diner spent $64 on a meal. Next is the harbourside suburb of Pyrmont, home of the Star, which boasts Momofuku Seiobo and Balla.
In sixth place is Surry Hills, the inner city hub of trend-setting eateries, where the figure was $51.
''The people eating in Surry Hills are going for a double whammy: meal and drinks. You’re in at 7pm, you have a few drinks before and after. They eat out frequently, like two or three times a week,'' Dimmi chief executive Stevan Premutico said.
''You’ve got restaurants happy to do a whole lot more for a whole lot less. Consumers are more value conscious than ever before. Value and price are now a critical part of the decision.''
The highest-spending diners live in Waverley, paying $71.25 a head at a Dimmi-booked restaurant. Gourmands from Freshwater and Manly spent about $10 less, while folks in Parramatta, Turramurra and Ashfield paid about $51 each.