29 June 2022

Canberra institution Aubergine to shut its doors after 14 years

| Lottie Twyford
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Ben Willis in kitchen

Chef and owner Ben Willis has been hard at work in the Aubergine kitchen for 14 years and has decided it’s time to hang up the apron. Photo: Lean Timms.

One of Canberra’s most acclaimed restaurants will close its doors later this year after 14 years of excellence.

The owners of Aubergine in Griffith announced the impending closure on social media on Wednesday (29 June) morning, saying it was time to “move on”.

In an Instagram post, owners Ben and Andy Willis said they were happy they could say goodbye on their terms and at the right time for them.

“We have had a great run and we have enjoyed a ton of success and we’ll always look back at the many good times that have been had within our walls with a positive sense of accomplishment,” they wrote.

For now at least, Andy and Ben don’t have plans to remain in the hospitality scene and there aren’t any plans yet for the space Aubergine currently occupies.

Aubergine restaurant

Aubergine is renowned for its incredible food and its intimate, dramatic interiors. Photo: Lean Timms.

They paid tribute to the staff who had worked at the restaurant.

“Over the years, we have been fortunate to work alongside many amazing staff who have helped us create the beautiful restaurant that it is, and we are so proud of all that we achieved together. We have also been helped by fantastic producers, growers and suppliers,” they said.

“A big thanks to all of you.”

Aubergine’s final service will be Saturday, 1 October.

Ben and Andy haven’t yet decided what the future will hold for them after operating Aubergine for so long.

During that time, the restaurant has picked up accolade after accolade. Most recently, an Australian Good Food Guide’s Chef Hat.

Caitlin Baker

Restaurant manager Caitlin Baker said it’s going to be bittersweet waving goodbye to the restaurant. Photo: Lean Timms.

For restaurant manager Caitlin Baker, it’s been a bittersweet and emotional time – particularly for the staff who have spent years working at the restaurant, although she’s left with a sense of positivity about it all.

“It’s something owners Ben and Andy have been wanting to do for a while now that they’ve achieved everything they wanted to with the venue,” she explained.

“As everyone says, it’s always good to leave on a high and they are feeling really positive about their decision.”

So far, the response from the community has been shock, followed by an outpouring of love and support.

“It is a bit of an institution and it’s been great to see people sharing their memories and messages.”

Caitlin noted Ben’s impact on hospitality extends beyond the doors of Aubergine, and that wouldn’t be forgotten anytime soon.

She described him as a sort-of ‘uncle’ to many younger restauranters around Canberra.

As for Caitlin, she’s got an exciting gig lined up in the local hospitality scene.

Stay tuned.

Anyone who has a gift voucher will be contacted by the restaurant. Book online before Aubergine shuts its doors in October.

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Peter Graves4:22 pm 29 Jun 22

Oh no ! One of the very few grown-up restaurants in Canberra – for service, staff abilities, excellent dishes and wines. With carpet on the floor and music that wasn’t being played for the benefit of staff. A very special place that will live long in my memory.

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