Sydney’s only plant-based fine-dining level restaurant, Paperbark, is closing. The innovative and groundbreaking Waterloo restaurant opened a year-and-a-half ago in the pretty Casba Apartments complex but owners Joe Pagliaro and Grace Watson have decided they will call it a day on Saturday January 25.

In its place comes Peppe’s Osteria, a plant-based pasta pop-up, based on the team’s hugely successful other venture, Peppe’s. The Italian-leaning Bondi Road diner was opened by Pagliaro and Watson in April last year, with chef Joel Bennetts (ex-Three Blue Ducks and Pier) at the helm.

“I think Sydney has proven to be very open and ready for all plant-based options,” says Pagliaro when Broadsheet asks about the decision to close. “We were very proud, as many of our customers were, in showcasing what plants can taste like.”

The reasons were more practical, he explains. “It wasn’t functional because of the layout of the restaurant. It’s complicated [to explain], but the flow is such that you need extra staff. We inherited the space, so [we] didn’t design it to fit the service style. It definitely is hard to make it stack up financially when you are only charging $95 for a deg[ustation menu].”

They’re not the only people to find the space difficult. Modern Italian Beccafico came before it and closed, as did Allegra Dining.

Peppe’s Osteria will be a much simpler affair than Paperbark and, because the price point is lower than the fine diner, Pagliaro says it should attract more foot traffic, making the venue more sustainable. Although you can order bar snacks, diners came to Paperbark for its eight-course and four-course set menus. Its signature skewered mushrooms charred over paperbark remains one of the city’s best dishes.

The new vegan pasta joint will be similar to the Bondi original but with a bigger menu and wine list. Dan Simmons from Grafted wines will be running the booze menu and will keep the same local-and-natural notes as the Paperbark list but with a few Italian imports.

While the final menu is not yet confirmed (it will be curated by Bennetts), Pagliaro assures us that “Lasagne will be a thing”.

“It’s going to be the same great value as Bondi – simple and fun dining. If you’re looking to eat more plants in 2020, swing by.”

Paperbark’s last day will be on Saturday January 25. Peppe’s Osteria is slated to open on February 1 at 8/18 Danks Street Waterloo.