Top chef Joel Bickford swaps Aria for Fort Denison restaurant

The Point Group chief executive Brett Robinson (left) and chef Joel Bickford.
The Point Group chief executive Brett Robinson (left) and chef Joel Bickford. Photo: Supplied

Aria executive chef Joel Bickford is out of Matt Moran's two-hatted Circular Quay fine diner, but he won't be downgrading his work view.

Bickford has signed on as culinary director at two of the most ambitious restaurant projects in Sydney: Fort Denison and Shell House Dining Room and Sky Bar.

The restaurants are part of the growing portfolio of Point Group, the Sydney-based hospitality company behind a broad range of venues including Bondi Beach Public Bar and Surry Hills Dolphin Hotel and Hotel Harry.

Brett Robinson, chief executive of The Point Group, on the Shell House rooftop.
Brett Robinson, chief executive of The Point Group, on the Shell House rooftop. Photo: Carlos Walters

Bickford's first assignment is Shell House, still on track to open in October as the hospitality centrepiece of Brookfield Properties' $2 billion Brookfield Place development project near Wynyard Station.

Spread over three levels, the four-in-one mega-venue will house a ground floor bar and bistro, terrace dining, and a rooftop cocktail bar inside the building's clock tower.

"We've been working on this for a long time, talking to the best chefs in Australia," says Point's chief executive Brett Robinson.

"Joel just seemed to really understand what we wanted to achieve and was looking for a new challenge."

Bickford isn't giving much away with his menu plans for Shell House. But the glitzy rooftop space will set out to deliver "beautiful produce-driven food". Top-shelf crustacea is also part of his food vision for the site.

Meanwhile, the Point Group's Fort Denison bar and restaurant is on track to open in late 2022.

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Moran's lips are sealed on who will be taking over the pans at his flagship fine-diner, but the new chef will play a pivotal role in the creation of Aria's new wine bar and its snack-style menu, set to launch later this year.

"A key focus for us in this new appointment has been in finding a chef who will not only thrive within the fine dining ecosystem of Aria, but who will also bring a new edge to the venue with the launch of Aria Wine Bar," says Moran.

Of Bickford's departure, Moran says "Joel has certainly played an integral role in the development of Aria, leading the venue as one of the most lauded restaurants in the country".

"It's been a pleasure to work with him and we wish him nothing but the best in his next endeavour, while welcoming in a new and exciting phase for the venue".

With Callan Boys