After a stint flipping gourmet burgers, former two-hat chef Ryan Sessions and partner Kirstyn Sessions are about to launch a new fine diner in the Victorian seaside town of Port Fairy.
They have transformed their Randy's Burgers venue in the main street into a darkly intimate, garden-facing 14-seat restaurant.
In a business model that other chefs will eye keenly, Sessions will initially open on Friday and Saturday nights only, will not cater for many dietary requirements, and will seat no parties larger than four people.
"I would actually need an additional member of staff to cater properly for the range of dietary requirements we see," says Sessions. "We cannot make a cent that way; it would be more like a charity than a business."
Taking cues from its coastal location, the menu will lean heavily on seafood, including a version of his famed local abalone dish. The 10-12 course degustation ($220) will also showcase organically grown produce from the thriving market gardens that have sprung up in the area in the past five years.
The front of the building will continue to operate as the Fen Food and Wine store by day, offering local wine, cheese, charcuterie and hampers. At night, they'll draw sheer curtains across shelving to create a tunnel-like entrance to the restaurant behind.
"We have really enjoyed the burger project, but the opposite end of the dining spectrum is where our hearts lie, so we can't wait to reopen Fen," says Ryan Sessions.
The Sessions made a name for themselves at an earlier incarnation of Fen and before that The Merrijig Inn, both of which were awarded two chefs' hats by The Age Good Food Guide, and helped establish Port Fairy as a culinary destination.
The restaurant opens on April 29, Friday and Saturday nights only. After August they will extend opening hours to include Thursday nights and Saturday lunches. Gluten-free and "limited other" dietary requirements will be catered for.
Fen, 24 Bank Street, Port Fairy, fenportfairy.com.au