Oscillate Wildly, the neighbourhood dégustation restaurant in Sydney's Newtown, is closing after 15 years. Its final service will be on 31 August.
But it's not all sad news. Head chef and owner Karl Firla has hinted that Oscillate Wildly may re-appear in some other way, shape or form in the near future. "We're not closing Oscillate Wildly the brand, but there's nothing planned," he says. "I need to sit down and have a hard think about what I want to achieve and where I want to take the brand next."
Over the years, he's been courted to move the terrace restaurant – which seats 25 diners in its main dining room – to larger premises, or open another branch. "But I didn't want to split 50 per cent of my energy into one business, and 50 percent into another," he says.
Firla has been the gatekeeper of Oscillate Wildly's fine-dining menu and operations for ten years. He took on the head chef role in 2009, then bought the restaurant from founder Ross Godfrey in 2011; as chef-owner, he had to take on multiple roles, including accounting, human resources and PR in addition to his kitchen responsibilities. But he wouldn't have it any other way. "I'm one of the luckiest chefs in the country to work on my own concept, on my own terms," he says.
Since Oscillate Wildly opened in 2004, the kitchen has been an incubator for up-and-coming chef talent. Dan Puskas and James Parry rattled the pans there before opening the celebrated Sixpenny the next suburb over; while Peter Robertson (executive chef at the recently relocated Flying Fish) and Malcolm Hanslow (of Canberra's Pilot) have clocked time on the restaurant's roster. The pocket-sized restaurant has long been established as a place for affordable fine-dining: in 2007, you could score a three-course meal for under $50; today, an eight-course dégustation remains a relative steal at $150.
Firla says it's past and present staff that have shaped the restaurant's proud standing in the Sydney dining scene. "It's only the business it is today because of the people who have come here and worked," he says. "No successful restaurant lasts without an amazing group of people to help you."
As for the retrospective menus that are traditionally trotted out in the lead-up to a restaurant's closure, Firla says he's keen to look forward, not back. In the final months, he'll continue sourcing fish from his suppliers and waking up at 4am to head to the produce markets.
"I'll continue to champion what's best at the moment," he says. "My best dish is the one that's to come next."
Oscillate Wildly is set to close on 31 August. 275 Australia St, Newtown, NSW, oscillatewildly.com.au.