Celebrated Brisbane restaurants Urbane and The Euro will close at the end of the month. Owner Andy Buchanan made the final decision to wind down the sister venues last week in the face of an ongoing battle with multiple sclerosis. The Euro’s upstairs bar, The Laneway Bar, will also close.
Buchanan says the decision on when to close was a tough one, with some scenarios having the restaurants operating until March or even June next year. But his health meant the call was ultimately made to wrap up both venues at the end of the busy Christmas period.
“You’ve got to work out the best time to close,” Buchanan says. “We toyed around with dates. But the decision was made that the end of the year would be suitable, to give everyone time to say their goodbyes and give the staff some time to make plans.
“My health has deteriorated throughout the year. It’s all to do with stress and that sort of thing, and it’s just a matter of time. That’s why the decision was made to bring it forward and not have me keeping on pushing through it.”
It’s for the same reason that Buchanan’s not choosing to sell the venues: “Selling takes time. I know that from other people trying to sell a restaurant. Time, unfortunately, is something I don’t have.”
Buchanan says he’s been through an emotional rollercoaster since the Courier-Mail broke the news of the closure over the weekend.
“Mate, the last two days I’ve had everything,” he says. “Frustration, sadness, tears, laughter. Everybody has been posting comments and sending messages. It’s been very emotional, and lovely to hear their wishes and their thoughts. It’s sad, it’s the end of an era.
“The staff have been fantastic in the way they’ve handled the news. They understand the reasons why. They work with me every day. They’ve seen my struggles.”
The 45-year-old Buchanan was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis – a progressive disease that affects the central nervous system – six years ago. He says the illness’s physical manifestation is largely confined to his left leg, but that affects his ability to walk properly and hold heavy items.
“Where my leg is at now, it’s incredibly visible,” he says. “There’s no hiding it at all. I’m not ashamed of it, but people might sit down for lunch and see me walking past and wonder, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I don’t want to give people the news while they’re trying to celebrate a birthday … a lot of people are now seeing [the news] and thinking, ‘Right. Now I understand’.
Buchanan and then business partner Drew Patten were in their mid-20s when they opened Urbane in 2001 as a 40-seat restaurant and bar. It turned heads almost immediately with its considered, understated approach to fine-dining.
Over the years Urbane has illustrated a talent for reinvention – in obvious ways with a 2009 refurb that added The Euro next door and The Laneway Bar upstairs, and in a more subtle fashion with the succession of top-rated chefs that has passed through the venue, including Kym Machin, Ryan Squires, Alejandro Cancino and now husband-and-wife team Andrew Gunn and Amelie Rabaud. The venues have also played host to some of the city’s best bar talent, including Perryn Collier (Yoko) and Kal Moore (The Gresham).
“I can’t pinpoint a specific time [when we were at our best],” Buchanan says. “The beautiful thing was, with each new chef who took over, they brought a different style and a different menu and kept reinventing the place, which was great.
“I look at where we started and what we’ve become, and all the staff have played a part. It’s been a lot of work, it’s been a lot of fun. There’s been good times, bad times, all of it. But then that’s everyone’s journey.”
Buchanan says he has little in the way of plans beyond December 25, when both restaurants will run a Christmas lunch as their final service.
“It’s not as if I’m saying goodbye,” he says. “I’ll still be here in Brisbane. I look forward to sitting down and having lunch with you all, instead of serving lunch.
“My focus is to finish the way we started and make sure everyone has a good time and good memories. Then I’m going on an extended break. Once I have my head clear I’ll see what’s out there or what comes across my desk.”
Urbane and The Euro will run their final service as a Christmas lunch on December 25. You can book here.