Sunday, 15 May 2016

Sad news as Marque prepares to close its doors

When we returned to Sydney from Europe in 2001, Marque had already been open for a couple of years and built a formidable reputation.

Chef Mark Best's food was always innovative, creative and challenging in an essentially unprepossessing space in Surry Hills. Marque 
Uberchef Mark Best
soon 
became a fixture in the top 50 restaurants in the world list.  

Our first experience was not a totally happy one; as I told the chef in an email. We were invited back and were instant converts the second time around. 

Marque became our special occasion favourite in Sydney; a place to celebrate a birthday or a special anniversary. 

We were never regulars (the prices made that an impossibility), but it was somewhere we always recommended to visiting friends with confidence. We never got a negative report.

Years later, I interviewed Mark Best for the Sun-Herald; he was charming and irreverent and as intriguing as his food.

I was a little stunned this morning when an email arrived announcing the Marque was closing after 17 years. I now live in Tasmania and haven't visited in a while, but somehow always imagined there would be other opportunities, Now, of course, there won't be. 

Here is an edited version of Mark Best's explanation (and, of course, he is enjoying great success with Pei Modern in both Sydney and Melbourne). 

"Why close Marque now? Seventeen years is enough, I think. I like the craft of restaurants and I like the art of it, and I like the customers. (Generally). 

"But when you’ve spent most of that time pushing against current trends, it’s tiring. I’ve come to the point where I’m happy to move on. I’m 50 years old and I’ve got a lot left to achieve and I don’t want to repeat myself. I can honestly say that looking back over 17 years at Marque, I’ve stuck to my guns.

"My approach at Marque has never been a good business model, certainly. I’ve said that 50 per cent of the diners think I’m a genius and 50 per cent think I’m an idiot, and I think that’s a good place to be, but it’s a bit of a reductive position. 

"But, then again, I enjoy that space. I enjoy my version of what Australian food is, and I don’t like to be defined by anyone or pushed into corners. I like to do my own thing. It’s a hard thing to measure until you can look back on your body of work, but when I look back now on a body of unique dishes, I’m proud of them. They’re mine. They hold up.

"I’m proud of our accomplishments, of being Restaurant of the Year, of being part of the World’s 50 Best restaurants – meeting so many like-minded, idealistic people from around the world was very comforting. Being able to travel the world cooking has been enormously gratifying, too." 


Best says Marque was meant to be a much simpler place than it was. 

"I got ahead of myself with the design of the place," he said. "I had a bit too much money and the architect was a little bit too clever and then suddenly I had to retrofit a menu to fit the design of the restaurant.

"I’m proud of our accomplishments, of being Restaurant of the Year, of being part of the World’s 50 Best restaurants – meeting so many like-minded, idealistic people from around the world was very comforting. Being able to travel the world cooking has been enormously gratifying, too."

Marque was also an enormously gratifying place at which to eat and drink. Thanks for the memories. 

Marque’s last service will be an alumni dinner on Thursday 30 June. Marque, 4/5 355 Crown St, Surry Hills, NSW.  (02) 9332 2225. marquerestaurant.com.au
      

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