Opera House gets tough with tender

No bistro: "Bennelong is what the people want it to be," says Guillaume Brahimi.
No bistro: "Bennelong is what the people want it to be," says Guillaume Brahimi. Photo: Nic Walker

Sydney's appetite for accessible eating could claim its biggest fine-dining scalp yet - Guillaume at Bennelong.

The Sydney Opera House restaurant site goes out to public tender this week, the first of several venues at the iconic arts centre up for grabs, and the person overseeing the tender process has made it clear eating will be favoured over dining.

''Research shows 57 per cent of performance visitors want a mid-priced bistro option, only 5 per cent want fine dining. We'd love a bistro-style place in there,'' says David Watson, the Opera House's commercial director.

With the owner of Quay and Otto Ristorante, Leon Fink, and Felix Bistro owner Justin Hemmes both rumoured to be scoping the site, where does it leave the current operator, Guillaume Brahimi?

''I really hope he does put in a tender; he operates successful bistros in Melbourne and Perth,'' Watson says.

''He's done a wonderful job [with it] as a fine-dining restaurant, but we want the Opera House open to more people, more often.''

Brahimi isn't convinced a bistro is what the site needs. ''I tried what they are talking about when I first came here - it didn't work,'' he says.

''I've been here nearly 11 years, I know it better than anyone … We're full, I'm happy with where we are. If anything, I want to be more unique.''

Veteran Sydney diners will remember the failed attempts at the site before Brahimi's arrival. He also points to the availability of cheaper food elsewhere at the Opera House.

''Bennelong is what the people want it to be, and they want it to be a fine-dining restaurant,'' Brahimi says.

He will join the tender process, with the winner to be announced later in 2013.