Long-running Flinders Lane restaurant Ezard, among the first to temporarily close when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, has announced it will shut permanently.
"The decision didn't come lightly," says owner Teage Ezard, who opened the hatted restaurant in 1999. "But I've achieved all I wanted to achieve over the past 20 years and it's time for a different direction."
Several factors played into his decision, including the expiry of his Adelphi Hotel basement lease, and the evolution of Melbourne's dining culture.
"When I started, cooking used to be a profession. Now it's a certificate," the veteran chef says.
He will take six months to firm up his next move, but he's already planning a more casual place, "a scaleable concept full of fun and energy" in Melbourne's CBD or the inner-city.
Ezard is considering taking a Korean-Japanese direction, complementing his modern Asian restaurant Gingerboy in Crossley Street, which remains open.
The JobKeeper allowance has allowed Ezard to hang on to key staff, including head chef Jarrod Di Blasi (The Age Good Food Guide's 2017 Young Chef of the Year).
The fine diner received an overhaul last year, retiring some of his classic dishes, introducing a dedicated vegan degustation, and updating everything from the uniforms and crockery to the bathroom soap. The restaurant scored 15.5/20 in the Good Food Guide 2020, up from 15 the previous year.
Ezard is also parting ways with Yarra Valley winery Levantine Hill, where he oversaw their fine dining restaurant. When Levantine Hill reopens on June 25, it will offer a wine-focused Mediterranean cellar door menu across its two spaces. Levantine Hill Estate managing director Samantha Jreissati says: "The deep friendship and excellent working relationship between the Ezard and Jreissati families means that future partnerships and collaborations will not be far away."