Hospitality

“So long and thanks for all the fish”: Melbourne fine-dining institution enters liquidation

Dominic Powell /

Woodland House

Source: Woodland House Instagram.

Melbourne-based fine-dining establishment Woodland House has closed its doors for good, with the business entering liquidation yesterday after five years in operation.

The Prahran business was founded by chefs Hayden McFarland and Thomas Woods, who took over the site of one of Melbourne’s most revered and well-loved restaurants Jacques Reymond. The restaurant had received a number of accolades in its tenure, including being named Australia’s 53rd best restaurant in 2019, and given two hats by Good Food in 2017.

However, the business appointed liquidators Matthew Kucianski and Ivan Glavas from Worrells to oversee the liquidation yesterday, and the founders made a post on Instagram with a Douglas Adams-inspired farewell of “so long and thanks for all the fish”.

“After five wonderful years we have closed our doors. Hayden and Thomas would like to thank their staff, customers and supporters far and wide,” the post read.

“It has been an incredible journey but it’s time to say goodbye.”

Speaking to SmartCompany, Glavas said the liquidation was due to a broader downturn in the fine dining market over the past few years, along with recurring losses incurred by the business over previous years.

“The directors were concerned about a change at that end of the market. They’d seen a downturn, and they were trying to be proactive about it, and as a result, made the decision to close,” he says.

Worrells are currently calling for creditors to lodge a proof of debt, along with seeking out a buyer for the restaurant, something Glavas is hopeful for.

“The hope would be that we could sell it and someone would re-open the business. It’s a location that’s housed a restaurant for many years, so that’s the hope,” he says.

However, McFarland himself was less hopeful, telling Good Food while he didn’t think the closure signalled the end of fine dining, “maybe people don’t want to do it in a 120-year-old mansion”.

Fine dining restaurants have been on the decline in recent years, with a number of Sydney and Melbourne institutions shutting their doors or switching up their business models.

Sydney chef Mitch Orr told Good Food anyone planning to open a restaurant in Sydney should reconsider their plans, after his hatted restaurant closed down last month.

“If you have $400,000 to $600,000 burning a hole in your pocket, give it to me. It’s a lot quicker way of saying goodbye to it,” he told the publication.

The chefs point to a number of reasons for the decline, including the rise of UberEats, increasingly fickle customers, and a prevalent ‘new is better’ mindset.

“People talk a lot about the rising cost of rent, but labour costs are an even bigger issue. There’s also disruptors such as UberEats and an oversupply of restaurants changing people’s expectations of what they should be paying [to dine out],” business owner Mark Best told Good Food.

“Restaurateurs are between a rock and a f—ing hard place.”

Woodland House’s Facebook and Instagram pages have been disabled and, curiously, the business’ website now redirects to the website for an aluminium finishing business.

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the former features and profiles editor at SmartCompany.

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