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Top Sydney chef Tony Bilson to shut restaurants after payroll tax bill forces him into administration

Friday, 14 October 2011 | By Angela Priestley

It wasn't that regulars found other, more suitable venues for their power lunches, but rather an unexpected tax bill that brought Tony Bilson's ultimate creation, Bilson's Restaurant, to its knees.

 

Today, Sydney is expected to lose what's considered one of its finest restaurants, the three-hat Bilson's, as well as its sister locale, Number One Wine Bar.

 

Bilson made the announcement yesterday. Having placed the two restaurants into voluntary administration, he told The Australian that he was unable to secure the finances needed to keep them open.

 

He said that it was an unexpected $500,000 payroll tax bill that caused the crisis and that at a creditors meeting today, he expects a recommendation that the two separate restaurants be closed immediately.

 

Administrators BRI Ferrier were at that creditor's meeting this morning when The Power Index called for comment, with the outcome unknown before press.

 

Meanwhile, the reservation number for Bilson's was being redirected to the Radisson Plaza Hotel, where The Power Index was informed the restaurant was not taking bookings, and would not be open for lunch today.

 

It's a significant setback for Bilson, who has long been considered one of Sydney's most influential chefs, and even been credited with giving the Labor party a sense of sophistication, having taken the Labor kingpins out of the pubs and clubs of the 1970s by offering more appropriate venues to conduct their business.

 

In his recently released memoir, Insatiable: My life in the kitchen, Bilson writes about just what caliber of diners his eateries attracted – particularly his Tony's Bon Gout.

 

He writes that the Whitlam government made Sydney an "exciting place to be", as he made friends with state ministers and some of Whitlam's "inner circle", and shared a house with George Negus.

 

"When we served lunch on Fridays it was for our regulars: pollies back from Canberra, Rudy Komon with his artists and clients at the top table by the door, the advertising agencies and lawyers, the crooks and the goodtime girls."

 

Sadly for all those heading out for lunch today, things might be a little different. "Our clients did not return to work on Friday afternoon and there were no mobile phones," he writes.

 

"If a call was received for a guest their presence would be acknowledged by Alain (the dining room manager) with a, ''Please hold, M'sieu, I will check to see if the chief justice is here. Or the governor or the premier or media billionaire Kerry Packer."

 

This article first appeared on The Power Index.