Shaun Quade and his restaurant, Lûmé, always worked to their own logic. So the news that Quade is swapping Melbourne for Los Angeles to develop "a new restaurant concept" right at the moment when Lûmé is at the top of its game fits perfectly. Quade has never seemed comfortable with his guests getting too comfortable.
When the South Melbourne restaurant opened in 2016 in a blaze of slo-mo YouTube videos and shade-throwing at other restaurants, Quade's philosophy seemed to be to make fine dining as pretentious and difficult as possible. There was the intentionally disorganised wine list, the menu full of cow's udder, camel hump and calamari entrails, the maniacally attentive service bombarding you with information at every turn.
It had its brilliant moments, mind you – Quade has a good strike rate with brilliant moments – but there was an intensity to the experience not for the faint-hearted.
Quade's anointed successor at Lûmé is John Rivera, late of Amaru and recent winner of the Pacific Region San Pellegrino Young Chef award. Rivera plans to "create a fine dining environment that focuses on warmth, nourishment and genuine hospitality; a pushback against the perfections of molecular gastronomy. In other words, fewer tweezers and wanky tasting plates".
In other words, sticking with Lûmé's more mature recent style rather than its earlier rebellious-teenager stage.
Lûmé under Quade was always experimental and innovative – the superb crashing wash of oceanic flavours in his signature Pearl on the Ocean Floor made for a truly great dish – but it came to discover that genuine hospitality was a great foundation for pushing the envelope.
Floorstaff did workshops with actors and psychologists and began attending to their guests rather than trying to school them. Quade shaped his dishes to delight as much as to surprise or shock, and the bar, under bartender Orlando Marzo, became a destination in its own right.
Rivera will cook Quade's food for the rest of this year and then introduce his own menu in January 2019. He'll be including his Filipino heritage in the mix, alongside his love for the "fundamental balance of sweet, salty, sour spicy and bitter that good Asian cooking is built on".
Quade plans to expand Lûmé into a larger hospitality group. As well as the new Los Angeles venture, he intends to open a wine bar with current Lûmé head chef Eileen Horsnell, and Marzo will release a range of bottled cocktails. A catering arm is in the works.
Less tweezering, more fun. It might just work.
Lûmé, 226 Coventry St, South Melbourne, Vic, 03 9690 0185, restaurantlume.com