Garagistes sold, closing

Author: Pat Nourse
Photography: William Meppem

Garagistes is dead. Long live Garagistes? Not quite. A more fitting theme might be "energy doesn't die, it just changes form". And so it is with the restaurant that was as important to Tasmania's new culinary identity as MONA has been to its cultural profile. The Hobart two-star, opened by Luke Burgess, Katrina Birchmeier and Kirk Richardson in 2010, has been on the market for more than a year now, but today Burgess, the chef and co-owner, confirmed that contracts have been exchanged, a local family has purchased the lease, plant and equipment, and Garagistes will run just 12 more services in its current form.

The silver lining of sorts for Tasmanian diners is that Burgess, Richardson and the team have decided to wind the kitchen down in its final month, trading not as Garagistes but as The Self-Preservation Society from late March through to around April 25.

"We're retaining the Garagistes name, and the new owners will be doing something completely different, so we wanted to come up with something to space the gap for about a month," says Burgess. The Society will be far more casual than the Garagistes of today, harking back to its more bar-like early days, and unearthing some dishes from retirement, the much-loved lamb ribs and silk oolong cream among them.

"The final touches on the concept are yet to be signed off," he says, "but it'll be a casual affair and one very much in the spirit of having fun and enjoying the last weeks of being in a space that we built and have come to love."

Burgess, who will be moving back to his home-town of Sydney, intends to keep the Garagistes flag flying, but has no immediate plans to open another restaurant. He says that he's pleased with the way things have drawn to a close in Tasmania.

"It's a big relief, and I'm glad we can go out in a nice, positive way and say that it's been five years and we've done some good work."

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