Food News

Hero, Karen Martini’s much-loved Melbourne restaurant, has closed for good in controversial circumstances

The ACMI’s critically acclaimed in-house restaurant closed abruptly yesterday.
Portrait shot of Karen Martini at her restaurant Hero in Melbourne's ACMI building

ACMI, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, opened in Melbourne’s Fed Square in 2002. And in 2019, it shut to undergo a two-year, $40 million refurbishment. It reopened in May 2021, with one of the most exciting new features – a restaurant and museum-wide food offering led by chef Karen Martini, following at the end of the year.

Hero was Martini’s first new restaurant in Melbourne in over 15 years, and from the moment it opened, the restaurant was lauded. It deftly combined casual all-day dining with Italian comfort food and a thoughtful wine list with a notable by-the-glass selection. It won plenty of fans and plaudits in short order, including a spot in Gourmet Traveller’s 2023 Restaurant Guide.

But yesterday, ACMI made the surprise announcement that Hero would be closing that day.

“Hero and its associated events management services, operated under licence by Michael Gebran of HospitalityM, together with Karen Martini, will be closing its doors today at ACMI,” said an ACMI spokesperson in a statement. “ACMI would like to thank Michael, Karen and the wider Hero team for their delivery of exceptional dining experiences in the face of ongoing challenges to the hospitality industry since 2020.”

“A new food and drink offer for ACMI will be announced soon.”

Hero’s statement on its Instagram account tells a slightly less cordial story.

“We regret to advise that today, 2 October 2023 ACMI purported to terminate our Operation and Events Management Agreement with immediate effect,” it reads. “We are currently obtaining legal advice as to our options moving forward including to recover loss and damage occasioned by ACMI’s conduct.”

“We will not be making any further comment at this time.”

On October 4, ACMI’s Director and CEO Seb Chan released a statement providing the museum’s rationale for closing Hero.

“ACMI ended the agreement with HospitalityM, the operator of Hero and its associated events management business, due to HospitalityM being in breach of its contract,” Chan said. “This followed ongoing attempts to negotiate with HospitalityM over the past few months.”

“Since Hero opened in November 2020, ACMI has provided ongoing support for HospitalityM – including payment concessions and multiple contract renegotiations – to help Hero in the face of ongoing challenges to the hospitality sector across the city.”

“Unfortunately, Hero has been unable to meet its legal and financial obligations under the agreement and has accrued significant unpaid debt.”

This story was updated on October 5 to include ACMI’s latest statement.

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