Food & Culture

The much-loved restaurants which closed in 2019

So long, farewell.

By Michael Harden & David Matthews
Change is afoot. It's not so much the death of fine dining as a cosmic shift. Starched tablecloths and stiff service do not a fine-diner make, but this year has seen some of the longstanding restaurants that traded in the more traditional trappings of dining close doors.
What's particularly striking about 2019 is how many of them had clocked up 10, 15 or even 20 years – seminal venues that were standard bearers of Australian dining from the early 2000s or even earlier. Among them was a smattering of ambitious restaurants from younger chefs and operators that may not have run as long, but whose significance will ripple long into the future. The good news? The next project is always just around the corner.

Sydney

Acme
A restaurant run by a pasta purist with a preference for Asian flavours, Acme burned bright and fast, with Mitch Orr's creative streak seeing him make signatures of Jatz, baloney sandwiches and pig's-head macaroni. Find him at Ciccia Bella frying mini mortadella calzone, and partner Cam Fairbairn at a freshly renovated Bathers' Pavilion at Balmoral Beach.
Est
When Peter Doyle finished at `Est` last year, Jacob Davey stayed the course, but Est's closure, due at Christmas, shows even timeless restaurants have an end. A place of linen, Champagne trolleys and business lunches, Est represented unapologetic classicism. Expect a renovation of this grand space, and a fresh approach with sympathy for the spirit of an institution.
Bodega
Bodega isn't gone, rather, reshaped and shuffled into bar-bottle shop Wyno. But it was the original that, 13 years ago, helped usher in a new style of dining for the city – loud, immediate, snack-sized – and start a mini movement that led to Porteño, Continental, LP's, Stanbuli, Bodega 1904 and Bella Brutta. Bodega is dead. Long live Bodega.
Billy Kwong
The restaurant Kylie Kwong closed this year looked very different to the one she opened on Crown Street in 2000. What started as a modest hole in the wall serving modern Cantonese food transformed into a truly Australian restaurant, tying together threads from different cultures and grounding them in place. All eyes are now on Kwong's next moves.
Paper Bird
In Moon Park, Sydney mourned the closure of one restaurant run by Ben Sears, Eun Hee An and Ned Brooks. With Paper Bird, it mourns another. One that extended the brief to all day and to dishes outside the Korean grounding. Here's hoping they, and their shrimp-brined fried chicken, make another comeback.
Oscillate Wildly
When Oscillate Wildly closed in August, Oscillate had been serving Newtown for 15 years, with Karl Firla on board for 10 of them. No mean feat. Fans will remember a place where the talent was deep (the seeds of Sixpenny were sowed at Oscillate), the menus clever, the value high and the ethic strong. Expect a return.
After 15 years serving Sydney, Oscillate Wildly closed in 2019. Photo: Will Horner
Longrain
Opened in 1999 by Sam Christie and Martin Boetz, Longrain set the tone for dining as a night out, with loud music, low lights, exciting cocktails, and fragrant, refined food. Though the restaurant closed in June, offshoots in Melbourne and Tokyo speak to a lasting influence, as do the chefs who graced the kitchen, including Dan Hong and Louis Tikaram. Christie, meanwhile, is on the look-out for new sites.
The Bridge Room
Ross and Sunny Lusted made their name with a commitment to fine produce enhanced by sure technique and a personal, exacting approach to aesthetics. Diners will remember CBD dining at its best, with food that set its own agenda rather than blindly following fashion. The Bridge Room closed in April, but expect a new venture in 2021.
Merivale fine-dining establishment Est called time after 19 years.

Melbourne

ESP & Saint Crispin
Scott Pickett has re-purposed two of most high-profile restaurants this year, replacing his acclaimed fine-diner Esp with an expanded version of his bistro The Estelle and flipping his mod-Oz diner for the Italian-accented Lupo.
The Mayfair
The late-night NY-style, jazz-tinged offering from David Mackintosh and Joe Jones never really took off, despite a strong menu of bistro classics (RIP spanner-crab crumpet) and reliably superb cocktails from Jones. Matt Wilkinson's Pope Joan has filled the void.
Long Chim Melbourne
The casino outpost of David Thompson's Bangkok street-food mini chain closed in July, following a mutual decision between Long Chim and Crown that it was time for a parting of the ways. The replacement? A Thai restaurant called Ging Thai.
The Press Club
George Calombaris's rough year included the closing down of his fine-diner The Press Club after 12 years. The space has morphed into Elektra, with ex-Press Club exec chef Reuben Davis dishing up sophisticated pan-Mediterranean food alongside amped-up wine and cocktail lists.
George Calombaris's finer-diner The Press Club held its last service after a 12-year-run. Photo: Derek Swalwell
Ramblr
Nick Stanton's always-interesting Chapel Street diner closed in March, its demise fuelled in part by the success of Leonardo's Pizza Palace in Carlton that was keeping him away from the Ramblr kitchen. It's been replaced by a Leonardo's spin-off, Leo's by the Slice.
Restaurant Shik
The very talented Peter Jo closed his first stand-alone restaurant in April when, despite great reviews and word-of-mouth, his "old-world Korean" restaurant failed to gain traction. The good news is that Jo is planning another venture.
Rockwell and Sons
One of Melbourne's original American-style diner food joints closed in June with the owners (who also have Bar Liberty and Capitano) deciding it was time for a change. Rockwell has been replaced by Falco Bakery.
Sarti
Long-time CBD Italian fave Sarti was retired in August by owner Joe Mammone, who decided it was time for a refresh. It has been replaced by Marameo, a more relaxed, but still Italian-accented, joint with a focus on flexibility.
Woodland House
Ambitious, detail-orientated and decidedly old-school fine-diner Woodland House called it a day in July with owner-chefs Hayden McFarland and Thomas Woods citing a tightening corporate dollar as a key to the restaurant's demise.

Perth

Co-Op Dining
This innovative, local produce-driven East Perth fine-diner from husband-and-wife team Kelly and Kiren Mainwaring closed in June, citing financial pressures. We'll miss the attention to detail, the careful sourcing of biodynamic and organic ingredients and, of course, the kombucha icy-poles.

Adelaide

Bar Mallozzi
Jock Zonfrillo (Orana) closed his Rundle Street wine and snack bar seven months after it opened. The combination of spuntini and an Italian-leaning drinks list from the Orana sommelier didn't fly, but Zonfrillo's fine diner (recently in pop-up mode in Sydney) continues to draw crowds.

Brisbane

Aria Brisbane
Matt Moran's Brisbane outpost closed in June, a victim of the current juggernaut that is redevelopment in the Queensland capital. The building housing the restaurant will be demolished as part of the Eagle Street Pier precinct development, which will include two towers and additional riverfront space.