After 19 years, Kylie Kwong has announced she's closing her Potts Point restaurant Billy Kwong but will reopen a new dining concept later this year.
The modern-Chinese chef and restaurateur says the venture will be an entirely new dining concept that will allow her to distil the favourite parts she's been fostering in her career and business – community, collaboration, art and culture – and will be much smaller than the current 140-seat Billy Kwong, but still bustling and casual.
She told Broadsheet it was a tough decision to make but in the lead up to a milestone birthday it makes sense. "I have 40 staff, 140 seats, and it requires everything I have to maintain and do the things I like in the way I like to do it. [Billy Kwong] is artisanal, it’s not a commercial operation. I like to write the specials, I like to run the food to customers and I like to make sure it feels like it’s a family. I’ve been a restaurateur for 19 years, I turn 50 this year and it’s time to change.”
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Billy Kwong opened in 2000 on Crown Street in Surry Hills, but moved to its Potts Point location on Macleay Street in 2014. Over the years Kwong has become a passionate advocate of sustainable food and ethical eating, and the restaurant uses locally grown organic and biodynamic produce, with a major focus on Australian native bush foods.
Kwong says the new eatery will have the DNA of Billy Kwong but better align with these values and allow her to commit more energy to her passion for art and culture, as she does at Carriageworks, for which she has been an ambassador over the past four years.
"In the last five years the whole global food community has changed and evolved because of social media. We’re so connected with the outside world, with people from right across the world. I want to get into the world more and experience what other people have to say and bring those ideas back home."
Billy Kwong will continue to operate until a new tenant is secured for the existing site, which Kwong says might take three to six months. In that time the search is on for a new space, with Kwong saying she has no specific area in mind. Details of its closing date and the launch of the new project will be released in coming months.
Many of Kwong's staff, including long-time manager Kin Chen, will remain working at Billy Kwong until it wraps up. Kwong has commissioned Adelaide-based designer Khai Liew to help work on the new project.
"In the meantime, Billy Kwong is still very much open and we look forward to seeing all of our wonderful, supportive diners in the coming months," says Kwong.