Former Rockpool talent Phil Wood is set to open his first independent restaurant in Sydney later this year.
The New Zealand-born chef is tight-lipped on the restaurant’s name, but has announced it will occupy the corner terrace in Paddington where Guillaume Brahimi operated his eponymous fine-diner until 2016.
“After 20 years as a chef, I am thrilled to be opening my first restaurant and becoming a chef-restaurateur,” says Wood.
“From the first moment I stepped into a commercial kitchen I have loved cooking, but over the years I have come to love the art of hospitality even more.”
Wood was executive chef of Rockpool (later Eleven Bridge) with Neil Perry for eight years, before relocating to Pt. Leo Estate on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula in 2017.
As culinary director of the Gandel family’s ambitious winery restaurant and sculpture park, Wood helped put Pt. Leo on the map for food-lovers everywhere. He returned to Sydney earlier this year, citing family and personal reasons for his departure.
The corner terrace at 92 Hargrave Street was built in the late 19th century and served as a pub and later a grocery store until the 1950s. It was converted into a Swiss restaurant in 1968 by D’Arcy Glover.
In 1975, Attilio Marinangeli and Aldo Zuzza opened the much-loved Darcy’s Restaurant at the site, serving high-end Italian cuisine for almost 40 years.
“D’Arcy was a New Zealander too, so I feel the site has come full circle,” says Wood.
Wood says he has been focusing on the business side of things, and the menu is still being developed.
“I want it to be pretty relaxed,” says Wood. “Beautiful food in the kind of beautiful venue where you can have dinner with your grandparents one night, and take a date the next day or have lunch with your mates.”
The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2007 Young Chef of the Year winner is “leaning towards a la carte” rather than a tasting menu at this point, but the new restaurant’s launch date is very much a case of “finger in the air”.
“The best I can say is ‘soon’. Right now, Lis [Davies, Wood’s wife] and I are enjoying getting back to Carriageworks Farmers’ Market every weekend, catching ferries and generally enjoying Sydney. It’s such a beautiful city that feels alive.”