Has the Halim Group landed on its feet after Khanh Nguyen’s departure? For group director Adipoetra Halim, a little good news is probably overdue. Despite buying Spring Street’s historic Hotel Windsor in 2005 with a view to renovating and modernising the Victorian icon, the project is still yet to begin, with constant setbacks and objections curtailing Halim’s vision.

In the interim, he’s turned his eye to the hospo game, launching successful CBD restaurants Sunda, Aru and Parcs, as well as gluten-free bakery Kudo. Halim had hoped the unveiling of ambitious all-day bakery-diner Antara 128 would cement the group’s place in the Melbourne restaurant wars. Then he lost his star celebrity chef.

While the group denies any allegations of a "toxic working environment" under Nguyen being the real reason for his dramatic exit in July, it still raises questions about the group’s future. Signature Nguyen dishes like Aru’s banh mi pate en croute continue to bring in the crowds, but to a certain discerning diner, the fact that the creative force behind such dishes is no longer overseeing them does lessen their appeal.

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Controversially, Nguyen's most renowned creation, Sunda’s Vegemite curry with roti, recently disappeared from that menu entirely, leading to more than one disappointed diner. In food tourism terms, it’s the equivalent of Pellegrini’s deciding to stop serving pasta, or Andrew’s Hamburgers pivoting to nourish bowls.

To make matters worse, Sunda’s Instagram account was recently hacked. Without Nguyen’s social media savvy or Masterchef-anointed public profile, the replacement account has struggled to recapture its previous popularity.

But my sources tell me the group may have struck gold in replacement executive chef Damien Neylon. Neylon brings with him a thoroughbred pedigree: aside from being Dan Hunter’s right-hand man at Brae, his CV boasts stints at Michelin mainstays Mugaritz (Spain) and Osteria Francescana (Italy), two of the most revered restaurants on earth. Neylon has been settling into his role as head honcho behind the pass at wine bar and restaurant Parcs, and the reviews of his menu have been ecstatic. Indeed, the Little Collins dining room has become a who’s who of Australia’s most respected chefs, clamouring to get a taste of Neylon’s carte.

While Neylon doesn’t have the social media profile of Ngyuen, he does possess all the credentials and reputation necessary to become a serious fine-dining star in Melbourne. What we do know is that Parcs’s 20-seat room won’t be the best or only showcase for Neylon’s work for long – expect to see his fingerprints across the rest of the group soon.

So what now for Nguyen? Upon returning to his hometown of Sydney in October, Nguyen joined Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt’s Bentley Group, which already boasts respected venues Bentley, Monopole, Yellow and Cirrus. He’s overseeing Bentley’s foray into modern-Australian pan-Asian at the imaginatively named King Clarence, on the corner of King and Clarence streets in the CBD. His pull is already attracting rave reviews.

Getting a weekend reservation is (almost) akin to securing Taylor Swift tickets, and a fresh batch of signature dishes reflecting Nguyen’s eye for the Instagrammable are filling up the grids and stories of Sydney’s social scene. While Nguyen’s take on the Filet-o-Fish is delicious, I’m a little tired of fancy joints playing the “my take on Maccas” card, and the less said about the concerning ubiquity of Wonder White bread masquerading as winking nostalgia on restaurant menus the better. But, my eye was drawn to the drunken chicken liver skewer with sansho pepper and what tasted like a scrape of Nguyen’s signature Sunda Vegemite curry.

So who retains custody of a chef’s signature recipes in the divorce between restaurant empire and star executive chef? In the case of the Halim Group, it seems to be confident its incumbent is capable of developing a new suite of signatures, with or without the Vegemite curry.

Jay Clough is the creator of the industry newsletter Bureau of Eating and Drinking.