Neil Perry, celebrity chef and restaurant titan, has finally cried uncle and is selling Eleven Bridge, his last remaining independent restaurant outside of the Rockpool Dining Group (formed in November last year between Perry, his business partner Trish Richards and members of what was once Urban Purveyor Group, backed by private equity firm, Quadrant).
Nationwide, Rockpool Dining Group now has 49 venues including Rockpool Bar & Grill, Rosetta, Spice Temple, Burger Project, Sake, Fratelli Fresh and the Bavarian Bier Cafe. It's a huge portfolio and one that Perry was finding hard to juggle, with Eleven Bridge.
The three-hat fine-dining restaurant has not, unfortunately, proven to be as profitable as the other businesses – much to Perry's sadness. "With all the restaurants and the projects I have going on, it was just proving a little much," he says.
Rockpool, likely the most recognised and respected restaurant name in Australia (it had operated for 27 years and was awarded no fewer than 66 hats), has seen a lot of changes – both in name and address – over the past few years. It was only last year, in fact, that Perry changed the name and concept from Rockpool Est. 1989 to Eleven Bridge, which is where the restaurant is currently situated.
It's a restaurant name that's also been synonymous with raising some of the country's finest talent. The family tree reaches as far as Kylie Kwong, Ross Lusted, Mike McEnearney, Khan Danis and most recently, Phil Wood, who has been cooking with Perry for eight years.
Perry's long-time executive chef Phil Wood says: "I'm really excited about the future. I've learned so much from Neil and Trish, it's been fantastic. Naturally I'm really sad about the closure of the restaurant. It's been an incredible journey and it feels like the right time to seek new challenges."
While Rockpool nee Eleven Bridge has drawn its last breath, the restaurant site has not. Perry will be turning the plush, heritage-listed building into a very traditional Cantonese restaurant, complete with roasting kitchen. "We'll be aiming for two hats," says Perry.
Eleven Bridge will close on May 13 and reopen in its fresh guise in June.
The new-look restaurant, whose name will be revealed in the coming weeks, will be run by Eleven Bridge's sous chef Peter Robertson, with extra help from Perry and Spice Temple executive chef Andy Evans.
What can diners expect to see? "Well," says Perry, "they can certainly expect to try the best sweet and sour pork in the world."
Game on, Sydney.