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It survived a fire and an explosion in a neighbouring building that blew out its windows. Now the Albion Street building will be reborn as a hospitality destination by Morgan McGlone and Nathan Sasi.

Scott Bolles

The former Surry Hills home of kitchen supply institution Chefs’ Warehouse will be born again as a hospitality destination, with the team from the hatted Bar Copains opening a restaurant and a bar in the Albion Street building.

Bar Copains’ owners Morgan McGlone and Nathan Sasi traversed Sydney, looking at potential venues for their next venture before landing on the old Chefs’ Warehouse site, just 70 metres from Bar Copains. In late 2024, they’ll open Bessie’s restaurant and a bar sibling, Alma’s, at 111-115 Albion Street.

Morgan McGlone (left) and Nathan Sasi on Albion Street.
Morgan McGlone (left) and Nathan Sasi on Albion Street. Supplied

Adorned with its signature giant whisk, Chefs’ Warehouse owners Christopher Hazell and business partner David Furley sold the then nearly four-decade-old business in 2018 to manager Melissa Wyner, who moved it to Redfern after the Albion Street building sold.

Sasi explains he and McGlone were attracted to the hospitality lineage of the building. During its Albion Street tenure, Chefs’ Warehouse survived a fire, and an explosion in a neighbouring building that blew out its windows, all the while overseeing restaurant trends, such as Sydney’s switch from colourful to white plates. Sasi remembers it as a building where the hospitality industry congregated to consume and chat.

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“The bones of the building are amazing,” Sasi says. As for the incoming Bessie’s and Alma’s, it won’t be a Copains facsimile.

“We’re going to do something different. Copains has a French influence, Bessie’s will be broader Mediterranean. We don’t want to pigeonhole the cuisine,” Sasi says.

They’ve already signed a head chef, with the duo prising local chef Remy Davis back home from San Sebastian, where he worked at the Michelin-starred Elkano restaurant.

The duo believe the Albion Street strip is also ripe for a bar. And while Alma’s will be serious about its drinks program, that comes with a few caveats. “It’ll be casual and fun, but there won’t be any fancy smoke with the cocktails,” Sasi says.

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Alma’s and Bessie’s will join a long list of Sydney venues – Margaret, Ursula and Jane among them – with monikers that nod to influential women in their owner’s lives. Bessie’s is named after McGlone’s grandmother, while Alma’s after Sasi’s gran. “They were both integral in helping us to cook,” Sasi says.

When Sasi and McGlone opened Bar Copains in late 2022, they introduced their pig’s head fritti and King George whiting sandwich to the Sydney dining scene and joined Lennox Hastie’s Gilda’s and Middle Eastern start-up, Shaffa, in a major food regeneration of the lower slopes of the busy arterial.

The former Chefs’ Warehouse site in Surry Hills.
The former Chefs’ Warehouse site in Surry Hills.Supplied

When Bessie’s and Alma’s open in late 2024, Albion Street will move up another culinary gear. “[The building] is part of the fabric of Sydney, if we aren’t going in there someone else will and it’d be a shame for it to be an art gallery or an office,” Sasi says of the onetime Chefs’ Warehouse site.

Expect a few references to the building’s former use. In a homage to the giant whisk that used to adorn the Chefs’ Warehouse facade, the incoming team has a plan. “A blacksmith is making a door handle shaped like a whisk,” Sasi says.

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Scott BollesScott Bolles writes the weekly Short Black column in Good Food.

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