Martin Benn and Vicki Wild, the acclaimed chef and maitre d’ pair that restaurateur Chris Lucas lured from Sydney to headline his new restaurant, Society, have left the Melbourne fine diner.
The pair departed five days after the restaurant opened in July, a publicist for Lucas Restaurants confirmed.
Broadsheet has reached out to Benn and Wild for comment.
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Melburnians had less than a week to experience Society, one of 2021’s most anticipated restaurant openings, before a sixth lockdown shuttered venues across the city for months.
News of Benn and Wild’s departure comes as Melbourne begins to, slowly, emerge from its gruelling hibernation. The Victorian government roadmap has indicated indoor dining could return in early November.
Society was years in the making, with Lucas first announcing he’d recruited Benn and Wild, two of the biggest names in Sydney hospitality, back in 2017. The duo closed Sepia – the critically acclaimed fine diner and World’s 50 Best Restaurants awardee – and moved to Melbourne in 2018 to begin work on Society.
After lockdown-related delays, the restaurant finally opened in late July – the first Friday out of Melbourne lockdown 5.0 – at 80 Collins Street, a multimillion-dollar development in the CBD. It is the latest venue for Lucas Restaurants, the group behind some of Melbourne's most popular and influential diners, including Chin Chin, Kisumé, Baby Pizza and Hawker Hall.
On the day bookings opened for Society, Chris Lucas told Broadsheet, “I’m excited. It’s been a long time coming.” Broadsheet has reached out to Lucas for comment.
In her opening story on Society for Broadsheet , writer Sofia Levin said that she was struck by Benn’s masterful Japanese-inspired dishes and the dramatic space, which was punctuated by crystal chandeliers. She noted the caviar-pretzel-accompanied Martini from the marble bar was already getting a name for itself.
Benn, who’s known for his precisely plated, avant-garde food, had spent at least two years in the test kitchen, experimenting extensively and refining each Society dish.
“Part of the Society menu is a reimagining of Sepia, brought into a different incarnation to suit the style of the experience we are offering in Society,” Benn said at the time. “Society is more robust than Sepia … but still as detailed, balanced and technical.”
Lucas called the 6000-bottle wine cellar “one of the most important cellars in Australian history”.