Rhys Connell, the former head chef at Melbourne mega-restaurant Society, is headed back to the harbour city. It's early in the year, and who's counting, but let's call it Sydney 1, Melbourne 0.
Connell is jumping into the kitchen at The Gantry, the waterside restaurant with a reputation as a nursery for talent. Its previous head chef, Thomas Gorringe, now leads the brigade at Aria, and his predecessor, Joel Bickford, oversees Shell House and the upcoming Fort Denison redevelopment.
When it reopens in March, expect some changes at The Gantry. "It'll have a bit more of a seafood direction," says Connell. "Being so close to the water, there'll be that connection to where you are [on the menu]."
While the chef is aware of The Gantry's track record and concedes he has tough acts to follow, he has a shining CV of his own. His time at Society, and Sepia before it, schooled him in chef Martin Benn's exacting approach. Expect some of that clever architectural plating and understated, playful cooking.
In June, The Gantry will receive a redesign. Connell would like to introduce some of the interactive nature of Japanese restaurants, "but make it modern Australian".
The chef picked up a few new tricks during his Melbourne tenure, with a quick spell in the kitchens at Andrew McConnell's Marion and Cutler & Co restaurants after departing Society when Benn pulled out of the project in September.