The Lucas Group in Melbourne is like a smaller version of Merivale. Later this year the company is opening Chin Chin, the wildly popular Thai restaurant that’s served as a springboard for its entire operation in Melbourne.

But we’re not sure it’s a fair trade.

Today the company announced it’s lured two of Sydney’s most treasured hospitality stars down south.

Martin Benn and Vicki Wild are the chef-and-front-of-house combination that propelled Sepia to spot number 84 in the 2015 World’s 50 Best Restaurants rankings (which actually includes 100 spots).

The duo is closing Sepia and moving to Melbourne in 2018 to open a new fine diner “of international standing” with the Lucas Group. The site is yet to be confirmed, but it looks likely to be in the CBD.

Sepia’s demise was public knowledge, but at the time Benn and Wild said they planned to stay in Sydney.

Their relocation is all part of the Lucas Group’s ongoing mission to attract the industry’s best talent, wherever they are. For its upcoming restaurant Kisume, for example, it’s nabbed Markus Tschuschnig as general manager. He comes from Masa, New York’s top omakase restaurant. Chefs Moon Kyungsoo, one of Singapore’s best for Japanese cuisine, and Australian Shaun Presland are also on board.

“It’s about creating a boutique restaurant group that’s fiercely independent,” Lucas says. “Martin, to me, represents everything that’s great about a chef. He’s one of those talents whose cuisine is so unique. It was born of Japanese inspiration, but it’s uniquely Australian.”