If the COVID-19 closure of Wollongong's most celebrated and ambitious restaurant has a silver lining, it is that the skilled and quirky kitchen team from Caveau restaurant has taken its collective kitchen talent elsewhere.
And when we say quirky, braised wallaby tail doughnuts anyone?
Simon Evans and Tom Chiumento have taken the hard decision to close Caveau, their Wollongong restaurant with an unbroken 15-year award run.
They felt they wouldn't be able to operate the hatted fine diner the way they had pre-pandemic, so decided to close it and put their energy into Caveau's wine bar spin-off, Night Parrot.
The chef duo continue to oversee Night Parrot, but have also signed on as joint executive chefs at Bangalay Dining, part of the luxury villa resort at Shoalhaven Heads.
"It's like a full-time job between the two of us," Chiumento says. Their opening menu has all the DNA of their local producer contacts. South coast oysters with burnt cucumber dressing, and a panna cotta they say leans heavily on "fresh south coast dairy".
Located on the road to Culburra Beach, former Opera Bar chef Patrick Haney is in the kitchen of a sprawling venue that already has a small orchard up and producing.