Quay team set to open restaurant inside Sydney Harbour Bridge

Author: PAT NOURSE
Photography: Rob Shaw

Editor's note: As much as we'd love to see this restaurant happen, this article was produced as a tongue-in-cheek prank for April Fool's Day. Thanks to the Fink Group for being such good sports.

In a move that will thrill diners even as it shocks urban planners, the team behind celebrated Sydney fine-diners Quay and Bennelong has announced plans to turn the Sydney Harbour Bridge into a restaurant.

Chef Peter Gilmore and restaurateur John Fink said they're as surprised by the development as anyone. "Pete and I had been joking with our general manager, Kylie Ball, about quicker ways for us to get from one side of Circular Quay to the other to run between Bennelong and Quay," Fink says. "We'd joked about jet-skis and a flying fox and things like that, and then we got to talking about building a bridge." It was at that point, Gilmore says, that Fink and Gilmore locked eyes and the conversation suddenly dropped away. "It was like we had the idea at the exact same time; we just looked up and there it was. We whispered it to each other: 'Bridge'."

Diners will start their meal with drinks and snacks in the bridge's south-eastern pylon before making their way over the arch to the north-east for entrées, then across to the north-west for main courses, and then back over the harbour to the south-westernmost of the granite structures for dessert. "They're certainly going to get their 10,000 steps in that night," quips Fink. In addition to a stunning panorama afforded by being 134 metres above sea level, the climb will offer guests the chance to get up close and personal with the new rooftop gardens planted across the arch to supply the restaurant. "We'll be getting them to do some of the watering and weeding while they're up there," Gilmore says. "We want it to be an immersive, participatory experience."

The menu is a work in progress, but Gilmore has confirmed that it will include an architectural homage somewhat akin to his meringue Opera House at Bennelong ("it's a coat-hanger I've fashioned from cream, prune, oloroso caramel and sugar crystals"), and a shrimp-on-the-barbie tribute to the structure's most famous former employee, one-time bridge painter Paul Hogan. The dish he's most excited about, though, is the Francis de Groot. "It's our tribute to the horseman who bolted ahead of the premier at the opening ceremony in 1932 to slash the ribbon - a horsemeat tartare that we hand-cut with a cavalry sword."

Set to open later this year, Bridge is a ground-breaking undertaking, to say the least, and negotiations are still underway with the Roads and Traffic Authority, Sydney Foreshore Authority, EPA, BridgeClimb, City of Sydney and several other authorities to iron out the finer details of the restaurant's day-to-day operations. Fink says he's undaunted by the complexity of the project. "Everyone said the Opera House was a tough site, that we were mad to open two restaurants so close together. But all I see is opportunity. And it'll end that rivalry between the north shore and the south once and for all. 'Build a bridge', people like to say. Well, we're doing it. Get over it."

Gilmore is no less enthused. "Bridge is the culmination of a lot of things we've been talking about for years. It's a celebration of the landscape, a tribute to Australian culture and an urban farm all rolled into one," Gilmore says. "And it carries two rail lines and eight lanes of traffic."

As ambitious as it sounds, Bridge is by no means the only serious restaurant to call a major world landmark home. Beyond Bennelong, its sister venue at the Sydney Opera House, of course, there's Alain Ducasse's Jules Verne in Paris, a restaurant on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower that has been awarded a Michelin star. Meanwhile, David Chang's plans to open a different Momofuku outlet in the head of each president sculpted into Mount Rushmore (each with a different menu direction in homage to the presidencies of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln) are well advanced.

"I'm just surprised no one thought of it before us," Fink says. "If nothing else, it'll be a bloody good place to watch the New Year's Eve fireworks."

Bridge, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Bradfield Hwy, Sydney, NSW







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