It's a tale with all the ingredients for a Sydney food fight. There's the waterside mega venue and its overseas investors, the former operator and a brewing legal tussle. And what recipe would be complete without a late sprinkling from a hatted chef?
Greg Anderson, the chef-restaurateur who steered the rebirth of the 400-seat Manly Greenhouse, is no longer involved with the mega project.
"I had a consulting agreement with the owner, who is in mainland China. We are arguing over a few contractual issues so I can't comment," Anderson says.
After more delays than the light rail – which included moving "a fire hose three inches to the left" – Manly Greenhouse opened in late 2018 in spectacular style with a luxe rooftop and Luchetti Krelle design.
With Anderson and his partner, Patricia Nunes, out of the venue (they continue to own and operate Sails on Lavender Bay), the Greenhouse's general manager, Craig Hemmings, has filled the void.
Hemmings, a Sydney restaurant veteran who returned from Singapore to join the opening team at the Greenhouse, sat in his kitchen during the coronavirus lockdown and penned a Jerry Maguire-style manifesto for investors with his vision for the venue. "They've basically given me the keys," Hemmings says.
The Italian focus is gone. "We've brought in James Evangelinos, who had a hat as head chef at The Centennial," he says. The wood-fire oven now turns out bread and whole fish rather than pizza.
"We are turning upstairs into a wine bar [with bistro]," he says. "None of the dishes are over $35. There's a real gap in the market in Manly for something that's not a slaughterhouse or a kiddies' bar."
They've even rejigged the as-new interior, making it lighter and brighter. The scale of the multi-level venue has been compared with projects from Justin Hemmes' stable, but Hemmings won't be rebranding it Hemmingsphere. "Manly Greenhouse stays," he adds.
And Anderson remains proud of what it achieved under his watch: "We turned a site that was run down and vacant into a place employing 40-odd people."