When chef and restaurateur Steve Earl announced the closure of his restaurant La Bimba via Instagram, the phone calls he received were ones of condolence. He too fell victim to COVID-19’s wrath? But in truth, Earl says shutting the doors to his 14-year venture has been nothing but good news.
Certainly, it’s a loss to the small coastal town, whose permanent population of just over 15,000 has loved the simple, honest fare Earl’s been providing for years. Where they’ll get the same level of attention to detail and flavour, we don’t know yet. But as the saying goes, you need to know when to hit the road, Jack.
And indeed he did, moving from Apollo Bay to Geelong while simultaneously hanging up the chef’s apron. His new pursuit – furniture making – is already in full swing, handcrafting pieces using timber of origin, much like how his seafood has always come from sustainable, transparent sources.
The keys to La Bimba’s seaside abode were handed over to new restaurateur’s just last week and while Earl says he isn’t sure what the new owners plan to do with the venue, the timber fit-out will stay the same, as will the Feng Shui mirrors he placed to keep good vibes in.
I know the new owners want to continue on a similar ethos to what La Bimba was doing; focusing on local produce and particularly the seafood. They’ll no doubt put their own mark on it.
The legacy Earl leaves behind is one of culinary excellence, customer loyalty and business resilience – shown particularly during the pandemic. The restaurant switched from takeaway to pre-packed meals, to dine-in, to a laid back pop-up within several months, keeping locals happy with excellent seafood and staff members at work.
It’s a shame we won’t get to eat any of Earl’s exceptional cooking for some time yet, but we’ll certainly be keeping an eye on his new projects, as well as the new venture sure to pop up soon in the former La Bimba home.
WHAT: La Bimba closing
WHERE: 125 Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay
WHEN: 26 January 2021
MORE INFO: Follow Steve’s furniture design business ‘Analogue Design’ here