Closing the doors on their Sydney three-star restaurant, Martin Benn and Vicki Wild set their sights south.
In a week where all eyes are on the Melbourne dining scene, Victoria just got another feather in its cap. After Sepia closes its doors on 31 December 2017 ahead of the lease expiring on its Sydney CBD site, Martin Benn and Vicki Wild are moving to Melbourne - and setting up shop with veteran restaurateur Chris Lucas.
The new restaurant, opening in the Melbourne CBD in 2018, will trade under a new name. The Sepia name and concept, says Wild, which won the restaurant international acclaim over the past eight years on Sussex Street, will be put to rest with the Sydney restaurant when the doors close. "And we're proud to go out on a high. We've achieved more than we ever dreamed here."
What's not done is the couple's commitment to fine-dining. Quite the opposite, in fact. "I don't think we know how to do anything else," says Wild, "And Martin's style is Martin's style."
With the backing of The Lucas Group, which operates Chin Chin, Baby, Kong and Hawker Hall in Melbourne, along with the soon-to-open Kisume, and a Sydney branch of Chin Chin, she says, they'll have the backing to take things up a notch and run the restaurant without the compromises they had to make as a smaller business.
"We can really dial it up without limitation," says Wild.
Lucas, for his part, is chuffed to have lured Benn to Melbourne.
"Martin has not only been referred to as the next Joël 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 says. "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."
Wild stresses that the move is not a comment on Sydney's dining scene. "You go where the opportunities are." Besides, she adds, the couple already drinks coffee and owns a lot of black clothes. "I might have to start wearing red just to mix it up."