Two Mediterranean venues at opposite ends of the hospitality spectrum are closing this winter: Casablanca nightclub in Double Bay, and Comida, a small restaurant in North Bondi.
Comida has already closed its doors and the restaurant has been sold. Even though it was only open for five months, the neighbourhood won’t be the same without the heirloom tomato and burrata salad.
“It’s a tough area at that end [of North Bondi],” says former co-owner Dave Owens. “We didn’t see it working and thought we should sell now, rather than get ourselves into trouble.”
Comida’s menu featured a broad mix of Mediterranean cuisines with some North African influences. Owens and business partner Gaudi Diaz (owner of Paradise Road Diner) hoped to tap into the “chilled, less touristy” end of Campbell Parade.
“We got feedback constantly that the food was really good,” says Owens. “But that’s not enough. When you’re a small business, you need people coming back every single week.”
He believes delivery services like Deliveroo and Foodora have a big impact on small businesses. “They charge 30 per cent, and [when it’s delivery] you lose the revenue of people drinking in your shop, not to mention the vibe you get from a full restaurant.”
Owens is now restaurant manager at The Dolphin in Surry Hills, while Diaz will continue with Paradise Road Diner.
The pair are still good friends. “Gaudi and I are alright. We’ve known each other far too long to fall out now,” Owens says.
If Comida is “chilled” Casablanca is the opposite: glamorous and up-market with an enormous dance floor and VIP-only areas. Palm fronds and murals of tropical plants adorn the space and the colour scheme of turquoise and white is gilded with gold.
According to brand manager Sidney Pierucci, Casablanca’s building was bought by property developers and will be reimagined as a residential complex. It closes this Saturday.
Casablanca’s owners won’t be out of the scene for long though.
“The team is reviving the iconic space formerly known as Hugo’s Lounge in Kings Cross, opening the Flamingo Lounge,” says Pierucci. Launching September 23, the Flamingo Lounge is inspired by ’80s Miami glamour and Cuban Art Deco architecture.