The hunt is on: Opera House Trust searches for new restaurant to occupy prime location.
The hunt is on again to find a new marquee operator to fill Australia's premier culinary destination at the Sydney Opera House. The site has sat empty since New Year’s Eve and with little chance of being filled by a permanent tenant until next year.
Sydney Opera House chief executive Louise Herron announced on Friday that the Trust would undertake a new, two-stage tender process for the Bennelong restaurant, commencing in late July.
The new tender follows the decision by the Opera House and the Melbourne-based Van Haandel Group in March not to proceed with plans for Bennelong by Stokehouse, after the group’s flagship Stokehouse restaurant in Melbourne was destroyed by fire in January.
The incumbant: Guillaume Brahimi declined to tender for the Bennelong space. Photo: Nic Walker
Industry experts believe that the Trust is set to lose more than $1million in rental income by going without a tenant until next year. To help offset the losses, Opera House food and beverage partner Aria Catering will run Bennelong as a premium functions venue while the tender process is being conducted.
The choice of the Van Haandel group was made with much fanfare last year that the Opera House was taking a more affordable and inclusive dining experience, opening seven days a week for lunch and dinner, and for breakfast at weekends. The previous lessee, Guillaume at Bennelong, closed on Sundays and Mondays, did not serve breakfast, offered lunch only twice a week and was often booked for private functions.
Chef Guillaume Brahimi ended his 10-year tenure with the venue on New Year's Eve after controversially declining to bid for the new tender, declaring his style of fine dining was unsuited to demands for a seven-day operation.
On the look for a new Bennelong restuarant: Louise Herron, Chief Executive Officer at the Sydney Opera House. Photo: Marco Del Grande
On Friday the trust appeared to signal the possibility of a rethink of options for the site after urgings by a number of respected industry figures, including Fairfax Media food reviewer Terry Durack who said the collapse of the original tender deal was ‘‘an opportunity for the trust to improve on its vision for the site’’.
Opera House Trust chairman John Symond said all options had been carefully evaluated to ensure the best possible outcome for the iconic space.
“We are looking for an operator with a strong track record and a concept that embraces Bennelong’s unique qualities and magnificent setting,” Mr Symond said. “Dining at Bennelong should be a special experience, one that inspires and engages our Australian and international visitors.”
Stepping in: Matt Moran's Aria Catering to run Bennelong during tender process. Photo: Sahlan Hayes
Ms Herron said the Trust had scoped potential improvements to the venue and would work with the new operator on those plans, while being careful to respect the necessary obligations as a World Heritage-listed site.
She said the Bennelong tender would begin with an EOI proces and a new long-term operator is expected to be in place in the first half of 2015.