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Why catering entrepreneurs are making it tough and opting for ‘semi-closure’
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Why catering entrepreneurs are making it tough and opting for ‘semi-closure’

Upmarket Double Bay restaurant Lotus is ditching dine-in and switching to takeaway service only, while neighboring venues continue to thrive.

Scott Bolles

In a brutal year for restaurant victims in Sydney, a new term has crept into the city’s hospitality lexicon: semi-closure. The more expensive Lotus restaurant on Cross Street in Double Bay served its last dine-in customers this weekend, but will operate and remain open for takeaway.

May is shaping up to be a tough month for Sydney’s upscale Asian restaurants, with Crown Sydney’s Chinese restaurant Silk – described in a 2022 Sydney Morning Herald review as “completely over the top in its opulence, use of luxury ingredients and cost” – closing on Friday 10 May. Lotus also offers a luxurious setting, showering Double Bay diners with interiors of “colonial and Chinoiserie decor.”

Lotus in Double Bay has switched to a takeaway only restaurant.
Lotus in Double Bay has switched to a takeaway only restaurant.Anna Kucera

“Our style of service requires quite a lot of staff, and we are in a difficult moment in terms of hospitality,” explains a Lotus Double Bay spokesperson. Going takeaway only reduces overhead costs and still allows Lotus to maintain ties with its eastern suburbs customer base.

Lotus occupies the retail space next to Double Bay’s InterContinental hotel, a site that sold in March for more than $215 million with plans for a mixed-use renovation that will still include a hotel.

Despite Lotus’ downsizing, Double Bay has remained generally vibrant, with a new hospitality injection into Bay Street led by Neil Perry’s Margaret eatery. The sheen of Bay Street has made it the Rodeo Drive of Sydney restaurants, with a 140-seat Japanese-inspired restaurant. Tanuki And Bartiga at the party in early 2024. In the coming months, Perry will increase arrivals on the strip with an Asian restaurant Songbirdand jazz bar Bobbies.

The dining room of Neil Perry's Margaret, which has become a vibrant hub in the center of Double Bay.
The dining room of Neil Perry’s Margaret, which has become a vibrant hub in the center of Double Bay.Jennifer Soo

And there is more to come. Australian-Korean restaurateur David Bae – who has a small empire of restaurants stretching from Circular Quay to Surry Hills – confirmed he will open a mega venue next year in Double Bay’s Ruby House development, on the corner of Bay Street and New South Head Road.

Inspired by locations such as Born and Bread in Seoul, plans for the Double Bay hospitality venue include a boutique butcher shop specializing in Wagyu, a cocktail bar, a 10-seat omakase and an 80-seat Korean barbecue restaurant on the first floor. The location is given a name Sootthe nickname Bae used at his Barangaroo pop-up, which previously traded on the site where it had just opened Astro, a barbecue Izakaya.

Bae says he has coveted Double Bay for a long time. He won’t be the only new kid on the block in 2025, as California-based luxury home furnisher RH (formerly Restoration Hardware) catering location on the roof with glass roof in his Bay Street plans. It will also open next year.

Scott BollesScott Bolles writes the weekly Short Black column in Good Food.

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