It's Melbourne one, Paris nil as the Sydney Opera House Trust announces that its flagship restaurant, for the past 12 years run as fine-diner Guillaume at Bennelong, will next year become the first Sydney branch of the Stokehouse brand, with Melbourne restaurateurs Frank and Sharon Van Haandel taking over the site.
The Van Haandels, proprietors of Stokehouse and Stokehouse Café in St Kilda, Stokehouse Q in Brisbane and their most recent addition, Fatto Bar & Cantina at Melbourne's Hamer Hall, will launch Bennelong by Stokehouse in May. Stokehouse creative director and executive chef Anthony Musarra will oversee the restaurant as a whole, and Stokehouse Q's Richard Ousby (pictured above) is taking the reins in the kitchen.
The food, Ousby tells us, will be "very similar to the Stokehouse brand", with a "loosely Mediterranean background somewhere in the mix", and a focus on local, seasonal produce wherever possible.
It'll be a lot more accessible than its fine-diner predecessor, too, with the restaurant split over two levels, each offering different dining experiences at differing price points.
"There will be two restaurants or two offerings," says Ousby, with the ground-level area channelling a more sophisticated Stokehouse feel and the upper-level toning it down a few notches for a more casual experience.
The restaurant will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, as well as breakfast on weekends - a big change from current occupant Guillaume, which is open five nights for dinner and just two days for lunch each week.
Ousby, who joined the Stokehouse family in 2012 following three years at Quay, tells GT he's ecstatic about being part of the project. When asked what it'll be like to look over at his former employer from the other side of the harbour, he responded, "It'll be great. I was speaking to the sous-chef, Rob, there [at Quay] and I told him I'd buy him some binoculars so that we can start to chat again."