In the wake of the devastating fire that destroyed the recently renovated Stokehouse flagship restaurant in St Kilda in Melbourne earlier this year, it has been announced that the Van Haandel Group will no longer be taking up residence at the Opera House here in Sydney as expected.

“In a perfect world (before the fire), we were perfectly placed to concentrate solely on Stokehouse at Bennelong, giving it our complete and undivided attention, which it deserved,” says Frank van Haandel of the decision.

“It was initially hoped the project would just be delayed, but now that we have been appointed project managers by the City of Port Phillip for the rebuild of Stokehouse Melbourne, we need to focus on recreating the institution that Stokehouse was.”

The Van Haandel Group and the Stokehouse team won the tender to pick up where Guillaume at Bennelong left off at the end of 2013, and were expected to bring its brand to the Opera House space this year. There were mixed reactions to seeing fine diner Guillaume close its doors, along with plenty of anticipation about the arrival of Stokehouse. But on January 17 this year a fire broke out at the much-loved St Kilda Stokehouse, reducing it to rubble. Two hundred diners were safely evacuated with the aid of staff, and no one was injured, but the restaurant (set to celebrate its 25th birthday) could not be saved.

As would be expected of any such devastating event, it affected the plans of the Van Haandel Group. The sad upshot is that it’s no longer the right time for Stokehouse at the Opera House.

"We put our heart and soul into the tender process for the Sydney Opera House site and achieving the status of preferred tenderer will always be one of our greatest accomplishments,” says van Haandel. “We thank the Opera House for entrusting us with such an iconic site and for all their efforts to make Bennelong by Stokehouse work."

The decision was made in conjunction with the Opera House, with both groups acknowledging that the Van Haandel group’s needs to be on its Melbourne site. Broadsheet wishes Stokehouse all the best with its rebuild and eagerly await announcements about the Bennelong space.