Neil Perry just sold his last surviving restaurant to the company that swallowed the rest of the Rockpool empire

Neil Perry and Rockpool’s executive chef, Phil Wood, who will depart after eight years. Photo: supplied

Neil Perry’s Sydney fine diner Eleven Bridge will close in May after less than 12 months, with the chef announcing today that he sold the restaurant.

The deal ends Perry’s 28 year career as a restaurant proprietor in partnership with his cousin Trish Richards.

Last November the duo sold the Rockpool empire, except for Eleven Bridge, to private equity-backed Urban Purveyor Group, for a rumoured $60 million. The 11 Bridge site was rebranded from the original Rockpool 1989 name under which Perry made his formidable reputation, in July last year, four months before he carved off the rest of the group.

The merger of Perry’s Burger Project, Spice Temple, Rosetta, and Rockpool Bar & Grill restaurants in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth with UPG added to a portfolio that also includes the Fratelli, Bavarian Bier Cafe and Sake brands.

The company subsequently rebranded as Rockpool Dining Group and now has more than 50 venues and 15 dining brands, with a turnover of more than $350 million. RDG is pushing towards an IPO via its owner, Quadrant Private Equity, which previously paid $410 million for VIP Pet Foods.

Perry, who turns 60 this year, maintains his Qantas consultancy of 20 years, and recently consultancy to David Jones, under a separate entity as Rockpool Consulting.

The chef, who now as the title chief brand and culinary officer Rockpool Dining Group, has most recently focused his attentions on Japanese cuisine in reworking menus for Sake, which is rolling out a pret-a-manger takeaway spinoff called Sake Jr, as well as more Burger Projects.

Eleven Bridge will close on May 13. Staff will be offered the chance to join the new group.

But after eight years as Perry’s head, then executive chef at Rockpool/Eleven Bridge, the sale is also the turning point for Phil Wood, who like previous alumni, Ross Lusted of nearby three-hat fine diner Bridge Room, and Mike McEnearney of No 1 Bent St, will strike out on his own after winning countless awards, including Gourmet Traveller’s 2016 restaurant of the year.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure and honour to add to the legend of an iconic restaurant in Australia,” Wood said.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with Neil and Trish. They have taught me a lot about the industry, for which I’ll be forever indebted to them.

“After eight years, it’s time for me to seek a new challenge and broaden my career.”

Wood will present tasting menus of classic dishes from Eleven Bridge and Rockpool, in celebration of 28 years of culinary history, until the closure.

Rockpool Dining Group (RDG) plans to turn 11 Bridge into a new restaurant by mid-2017 but CEO Thomas Pash did not offer any details, but Perry has plans for a top-end Cantonese.

“The location is perfect and being part of the critical mass that is Rockpool Dining Group makes it more manageable for everyone,” Pash said.

Perry said selling made sense.

“Rockpool Dining Group operates a tight-knit family of quality restaurants and great brands with maximum efficiency and it makes sense to operate the Eleven Bridge site within this portfolio, rather than as a standalone restaurant,” he said.

RDG bills itself as “Australia’s largest dining and restaurant group”, spread across four states, with more than over 3000 employees.

It has the ambitious target of doubling in size over the next two years, believing its vertically-integrated model will give it the commercial advantage to take the food business today a stock market float down the track.

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