Sydney is set to lose another fine diner with chef Martin Benn and restaurateur Vicki Wild closing three-hat restaurant Sepia to open a new venue in Melbourne next year with local supremo Chris Lucas.
Sepia, which featured on the world’s 100 best restaurants list in 2015 as “one to watch”, will close on 31 December, 2017, after eight years.
Lucas, founder and CEO of The Lucas Group, runs popular Melbourne diners Chin Chin, Hawker Hall, Kong, Baby and The Botanical.
Benn and Wild, plan to open a restaurant in Melbourne’s CBD with Lucas next year. The group already has the Japanese-inspired Kisumé in Flinders Lane slated for this May and move into Sydney’s Surry Hills in August with a Chin Chin outpost.
News of the closure of Sepia, a Good Food Guide restaurant of the year, comes just days after chef Grant King announced he’d close two-hat Gastro Park in Potts Point this May after six years amid a growing casualty list at the top end of Sydney dining.
Neil Perry’s former Rockpool restaurant, now known as Eleven Bridge, also closes in May after the chef sold the business. Guillaume Brahimi closed his Paddington restaurant at the end of 2016, while Mark Best’s Marque also closed last year after 17 years, and Silvereye, run by a former Noma sous chef, closed in September after less than a year in business.
Benn and Wild paid tribute to their restaurant partner, seafood supplier George Costi, for his support in turning Sepia into one of Australia’s best restaurants.
“George will be retiring and will not be renewing the lease at Sussex Street, nor entering into the new Melbourne venture with us,” Benn said.
The closure comes after the couple announced they’d leave the site last year, only to have a change of heart.
“This announcement gives our staff, who are like family, clarity for the future. Our loyal guests and friends can be assured we will be giving it our all over the remainder of the year at Sepia. We won’t be winding down, we will be dialing it up and going out with a bang,” Benn said.
As Australia’s dining scene undergoes increasing consolidation and shift into a big business model, Benn and Wild’s collaboration will give them a stronger financial base after running a single restaurant for eight years.
“In Chris Lucas, we have found a dynamic, fiercely independent restaurateur whose vision and talent will provide us with the unique opportunity to fulfill our dreams beyond what we could have ever thought possible,” the pair said.
Lucas said admired the duo as “not only special talents but also humble and hardworking people” with whom he has much in common.
“Martin has not only been referred to as the next Joel Robuchon but more importantly, in my view, is regarded here and internationally as ‘the chef’s chef’, a man who is profoundly committed to his art,” he said.
“With such a global profile, they could have easily headed overseas with huge offers from Hong Kong, New York or London, but I’m proud to say that they will be making Melbourne their home. Together we hope we can create, without compromise, something truly special.”
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