Part of consortium: Matt Moran.
Part of consortium: Matt Moran. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

Heath Gilmore and Carolyn Cummins

A high-powered consortium led by celebrity chef Matt Moran has won a highly contested tender to run the Opera Bar which had attracted the interest of hospitality tsars Justin Hemmes and Fraser Short.

On Monday afternoon the Sydney Opera House Trust announced the incumbent team - consisting of principals Bruce Solomon, Anna Solomon and John Gallas from Solotel, and Matt Moran and Peter Sullivan from MorSul - will again operate one of the most prized licensed strips in Australia under a new 10-year lease.

The Trust opted for a low key unveiling of its "significant rethink and refresh" of the Opera Bar venue which will include a charcuterie room where all products are based on pork meat or offal, a raw seafood bar and a new cafe section at the venue’s southern end.

The announcement tightens Moran's culinary hold over the Opera House as he took up a short term catering contract at the premier Bennelong restaurant site after the original deal with the Stokehouse group collapsed. In June the Trust decided it would hunt for a new marquee operator at Bennelong. It has been speculated Moran also has shown interest in a permanent operation at the venue.

Pub brokers said, unlike the tender process for the Bennelong which attracted criticism, the parties interested in the Opera Bar ‘‘were put through the wringer’’.

One broker, who declined to be named, said all hoteliers, including the incumbent Solotel, had to make a submission, including Hemmes and Short.

Bruce Solomon and his daughter Anna are the owners of Solotel, and own some of the best known pubs in Sydney, including the Courthouse Newtown, the Darlo, the Golden Sheaf, the Bank, Bridgeview and the Opera Bar.

Moran runs the Chiswick, Bondi Fish and Aria.

Sydney Opera House Trust chairman John Symond said the Opera Bar was the busiest food and beverage venue at the Opera House and one of the most popular in the nation.

"This excellent result demonstrates the value of the tender process and will ensure Opera Bar remains an important part of the Opera House visitor experience.” 

Sydney Opera House chief executive Louise Herron said the result would be a significant investment in reimagining the venue to enhance its status as a destination bar and restaurant. "Solotel has operated the venue since 2001 and we’re delighted that Matt Moran will be taking a more active role in the venue,” she said.

Moran said the venue would have a greater emphasis on Australian produce, including "produce from my own farm”.

Solotel Creative Director Anna Solomon said: “We are looking forward to unveiling our new design concept and fitout for the best location in Sydney. But we’ll have the same welcoming atmosphere and, of course, the same million-dollar views.”