Bel Mondo will close its doors next month, the latest casualty in a vicious 12 months for Sydney restaurant closures.
But it is one closure that could have been avoided, Bel Mondo owner Michael Lloyd argues. The outspoken restaurateur is going out swinging, criticising the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority for what he sees as poor management of the building where Bel Mondo resides, and of The Rocks area.
''They made it so difficult with our negotiations for a new lease,'' Lloyd says. ''What you'll probably see is it become another office, without public access to this great space. It is just another example of a restaurant in The Rocks that has done a fine job but is going. You only have to walk along the streets and, with the exception of a few places like Rockpool, see how pedestrian it is. Imagine if The Rocks was in a place like New York or Boston, what it could be.''
Bel Mondo was one of the hottest tickets in town when it opened under Stefano Manfredi in 1996. It was also known for its high prices and was struggling when Lloyd snapped it up in 2002. During his 10 years at the helm, Lloyd made it more accessible.
In 2006 he butted heads with departing chef Wayne Morris, who cried proprietorial interference, maintaining he had been forced to put a cream sauce with an asparagus and prawn dish. Lloyd described the claim as nonsense.
Bel Mondo might not be as rich in awards as it was in its early days, but Lloyd says he has created a good, profitable restaurant. The restaurant serves its last meal on May 11.