Vegetarian Restaurant/Venue 1975-1981
5 1/4 Brown Street, Chatswood, Sydney, NSW, Australia

It's for gentle nuts only...

Stories: Simon I Sally I Jay I Paul I Kirk I Vivienne I Staff I Customers
Reviews I FaceBook

And Now For Something Completely Different was a vegetarian restaurant venue that existed from around 1975 to 1981 in Chatswood on the North Shore of Sydney, Australia. It was also known as 'The Diff' and to those who knew it, it was just known as 'the vegy restaurant' or even just 'the restaurant'. I will also shorten it here to its smallest common abbreviation - ANFSCD.

The music in the Juke Box is by Paul Dengate, recorded live on a Panasonic cassette player that I placed surreptitiously next to the stage circa March 1977. You can hear the atmosphere, the clink of cutlery and plates, and the amazed audience watching Paul's captivating guitar and vocal performance. If you squint as you listen, you can almost... be... there.... al... most....
Paul performing on the stage
What you will find here is an organically growing archive website of memories and dreams from the staff, performers and customers who worked, played in and loved this phenomenal and unique space. It was full of creative dreamers who brought an inspiring diet of food and music to the people of Sydney.

What I hope is that, over the coming years, anyone lucky enough to have been there will send in their stories, photos, sound clips, posters, menus, and in particular I hope to acquire some movies on VHS or Super-8. Maybe there are still patrons out there who remember graffiti from the walls on the stairs?

I will accept sketches and paintings created from memory. Anything that will stimulate our memories and show the world what an amazing place it was. For now, here is a quick overview with a few pix to start with.

Vicki sent some wonderful pix! Vivienne sent an amazing collection of photos from 1980-81 that you can see on the new ANFSCD FaceBook page. Now Sally has found an old photo album that I have scanned and uploaded to the FaceBook Page.

Jay in the coffee area circa 1976
Hi, my name is Jay. I began working at the restaurant in 1976 as the dishwasher and quickly worked my way through every position right up to manager briefly at one stage. I have wanted to put this site together for some years now after it became obvious that no Google searches ever turned up an answer about - "And Now For Something Completely Different restaurant" (now 1st on a global Google search).

You can read my story on my page and any other people who contact me with info about ANFSCD can also have a page built for them, for free. Simon, Sally, Paul, Kirk and Vivienne already have one. Yes, like many of the other people on this site who were caught up in the music and creativity of The Restaurant, you can buy my music on iTunes.

Much of what you find here on the Home page is a spontaneous overview as I remember it (although they say if you remember it you weren't there!) but if corrections come in then info will be updated. The site will develop slowly with different sections appearing and navigation menus as required. The Stories by staff, performers and customers are a chance for everyone who was there to tell their story the way they remember it.

I look forward to developing the depth and breadth of the site over the coming decades and I hope everyone enjoys rediscovering some of the wonder of - And Now For Something Completely Different - vegetarian restaurant.

Story Overview
An ex-ABC-TV film editor named Ken Kurtz started the restaurant and called it And Now For Something Completely Different obviously because he loved the movie, which is after all probably where it all starts.
Excerpts from the original ANFSCD Monty Python movie

The movie certainly sets the keynote for the tone of the restaurant - meaning basically anything goes, especially if it is a bit mad. Most of the staff, performers and customers were pretty crazy and the boundary between staff, performers and customers eventually blurred. I have embedded a copy of the original movie on the left here if you have a spare 90 mins.

Being Austrian, Ken also loved cooking and during long nights editing he dreamed of opening a restaurant, so around 1975 he mortgaged his house and he and a French friend, Bernard, opened And Now For Something Completely Different with lots of enthusiasm and passion but no real experience. You can read more about that in Sally's Story. Ken also loved live music so right from the start he had live acts and bands playing there. Word quickly spread, especially on the North Shore (of Sydney), which at that time really had no cool venues or cool restaurants and healthy eating was just catching on.

Aerial view of Brown St and Big W Shopping centre circa 1970. Click to see full view. Courtesy Willoughby Library.

To set up the restaurant Ken found an obscure open-plan area on the very top of the three story Big W (Woolworths) shopping complex in a small obscure back lane named Brown St, Chatswood, opposite the well-known Charles Hotel. The actual restaurant was only accessible from an even more obscure stairwell set into the east side of the building and was easily missed because of a distinct lack of signage. What's more, because Brown Street actually had no numbers as such, Ken put the street address as - 5 1/4 - just to make it even more eccentric. It was often a miracle that people found it at all which only added to the mystery. There were regular occasions where a table of guests were missing some of their party because they simply could not find it!

Street map showing West Chatswood CBD
Sketch of street access with no signage. Click and zoom.

If you managed to find the entrance there was then a long hike up 6 flights of stairs. Ken knew from the start that the stairs would end up with all sorts of graffiti, so he commissioned some artist/friends of his to help him paint murals and poetry and sayings on the walls, especially Monty Python graffiti. Patrons were even encouraged to add their message and it provided considerable entertainment when both arriving and leaving, often causing traffic jams as people stopped to read. My favourite was “Time is nature’s way of stopping everything happening at once”.

Whole restaurant area - click on picture then click/zoom to look closely - not to scale

At the top landing you entered through a big heavy fire door and went from a dim cold stairwell into the sunlit top floor filled immediately with divine vegy cooking aromas, plants, cane blinds, groovy music and welcoming staff. Many people said as they walked in during the day that - it feels like you have reached the ‘after-life’ and are being 'greeted by angels'. It was like going through a wormhole portal into a whole other space-time. Not quite 'The Restaurant at the End of The Universe' from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, but pretty cosmic and out-there. Most of the staff were quite young and sexy as were many of the customers and the performers. This often led to interesting encounters.

Cane blind front and back. Clearer pix coming soon.

The first thing you saw straight ahead as you walked in was the iconic ANFSCD cane blind painted by renowned artist Phil Clarke. The side of the blind that faced the door was painted gold with the words “and now for something completely different” hand-written in ‘running writing’ and the backside of the blind faced into the restaurant and had a seascape with beach, seaweed, sea, horizon and sky. In the later years of the restaurant the blind was moved to hang behind the desk with just the seascape as the main feature for a desk backdrop.

Simon Brink, Cathy Matilda and Sally Collins at the front desk. Note cane blinds and table setting on far right.

As you turned left to enter the restaurant area you faced the front desk (an old Singer sewing machine) where you waited to be seated and to pay at the end. In this photo there is a batik hanging behind the desk on the cane blinds that partitioned-off the back left corner of the room. This was the fabled ‘staff area’ where all sorts of mischief was made and from which you could see through the blind, like one-way glass, when guests arrived.

Turning right at the desk you found yourself at the end of a long, open-plan room about 30 metres in length and about 12 metres wide, interspersed with tables of different sizes, broken up by hanging cane blinds. The tables were hand-made by Ken to seat 4 or 8 patrons on wooden bench seats. People would regularly stand on the benches or sit on the tables and Ken could often be seen with a hammer and nails putting them back together. There were large white spherical paper lantern lights hanging from the ceiling and each table had a candle burning. Most of the hanging blinds faced lengthways so as not to block the view of the stage from the back.

Fancy dress party in 1977 with Vicki and wonderful shots of restaurant with staircase - click to enlarge

This is not how we normally dressed... well... sometimes... but this was a specific fancy dress party. It shows the whole cross-section of the restaurant including the spiral staircase. In case you are worried, Vicki is dressed in a giant mask that represents her 'mind' and she is wearing a shirt with "I've lost my mind" written on it... so that when she put down the mask people would know... that she had lost it... a good example of how obtuse things could get. In the left photo you can just spot renown French sculpture Frederick Chapeaux in the dark to the right of the pole.

Simon 1978 with iconic teapots

You can read Simon's story but here is a quick bit of history as I remember it: About halfway through the life of And Now For Something Completely Different the stress of it all started catching up with Ken whose marriage split up over the restaurant and he started to lose connection with it. I ran away to the country for a while. At that time there was an astute cook working there named Simon Brink who saw this as an opportunity to buy in to the business and he bought a half share. Simon then took over as manager and began the second half of The Diff's life, more as a funky venue - with vegy food.

Ken faded more and more into the background and I came back from being away for 8 months to discover that part of the change that had happened was actually cultural - Punk had happened! When I left it was an acoustic, hippie, vego restaurant but when I came back it was a funky, punky, electric venue. More on all that later.

In those last couple of years Simon built a special VIP area near the entrance at the back of the room. It was a raised area sitting up on three layers of milk crates (just over a metre high) covered in boards and carpets with a low coffee table in the middle. It was an area reserved for special guests, celebrities, managers, promoters and well, for Simon, where you had a clear view down to the stage with a nice stereo position. You could also enter and exit the restaurant quickly and easily without being noticed as much. Simon, who had previously done interior design, also covered the whole ugly ceiling with rolls and rolls of hanging Hessian that ran right down the back of the stage and created a 'womb' feel as well as better acoustics.

Vicki Larnach & Paul in the stage area
At the far end of the room there was a small stage area in front of a brown-brick wall with windows all along the top. In front of the stage were low, cut-down coffee-table versions of the 8-seater tables surrounded by big long green foam-filled snake-like cushions and mattresses covered in batiks and velvet. This was a great place to go at the end of your meal to relax and have coffee and dessert while watching the performer.

There was a small 'audio PA' (amplification) normally set up with small mixing desk halfway back down the room. A waiter (usually me), in between dropping off a meal and walking back to the kitchen, often tended this mixing desk. I may notice that the guitar isn't loud enough and as I walked past the mixer I would lean over and push up the fader, then on to the kitchen for more plates. That's why my audio mixing style is so casual.

Alcove - click to enlarge

Over on the front left there was a small alcove next to the lift. In the early days that is where the stage was and it worked well as a 'performance pod' for smaller acts but as the clientele grew and the bands grew the stage was moved to the end of the long room.

Then the alcove became a secluded area with low tables that was later designated as a ‘smoking area’ although many people were confused about what was to be ‘smoked’ there. On the right side of that alcove was a lovely steel spiral staircase that went up to the top of a goods lift. Hanging over the alcove was a parachute which all created a lovely cosy area. It was often booked out for parties of 20.

Along the right side of the room was all windows that faced north and let in lots of sunlight during the day, which was especially nice during the times that lunches were run there. Running lunches was tried many times but between the stairs and being vego it was difficult to attract a consistent clientele from the office workers in Chatswood, long before health food was fashionable.
All along outside the windows on the north side was a small balcony area where people could go and get fresh air or smoke or just take in the 3rd floor view of glorious Chatswood. There were many lovely sunsets from up there. If you walked along to the end of the balcony, the roof opened out to a huge uncovered area that was hidden behind the back wall of the stage. It was a great area where staff spent lots of time having breaks and taking in the sunshine during the day and escaping from the crowds during the evening. It was always meant to be developed when things really took off. We hoped to extend the restaurant to a whole 'alfresco' area on the roof with umbrellas.
On the left side of the room between the back staff area corner and the alcove was a giant blackboard menu that had the fresh dishes for that day. Hidden behind the hanging blackboard were the kitchen double doors – right door ‘in’ and left door ‘out’ – which led inside to the large serving table covered with prepared meals, condiments and salad bowls with an area underneath for trays and plates. The dirty plates went to the washing up area to the right and the to the left was the coffee and dessert area – the most popular area for the performers!

It is amazing that Sally had kept a menu from the restaurant in her photo album!
Click on the pages above to open high res versions in a new window. Then click on the image to enlarge it.

All performers were entitled to their fee (about $20 in late 70’s money) plus a meal of their choice with a dessert of their choice and as much coffee and tea as they wanted. This was very popular with all the acts that played there. All the performers were highly respected and admired by Ken and by all the staff, who always looked after them like kings. In the beginning there were only fridges along the back of the kitchen but later there was a cool room installed.
All the food and shopping came up in the goods lift which could be loaded directly from the Franklins supermarket that was right down in the basement of the building. Vegies were delivered via a huge loading dock on the ground floor that also contained the large rubbish skips where the bins went every night.
There was always music going in the restaurant. Music playing on the turntable attached to the mixing desk or live music on the stage plus bands setting up and rehearsing during the afternoon. It was in the middle of the Chatswood CBD so it had no noise restrictions and music could be played very loud any time of day (or night). Often there would be a band rehearsing all afternoon, then the band would play all evening and then the staff and band would have a party and jam on to 3-4am.

The variety and styles of performers was vast, ranging from dance groups, poets, solo folk and guitar players, a Capella groups, full-on rock bands, jazz-fusion groups and sometimes huge bands with 10 people playing, dancing and singing. It was a meeting place and melting pot for the Sydney music scene in the late 70’s that then gave seed to many top acts of the 80’s. 

Photo of Alex at first gig of Moving Pictures at ANFSCD courtesy of Vivienne

Some notables were Alex Smith who first played there with his bands The Bilgola Bop Band and then This Side Up before moving on to fame with Moving Pictures and the hit single What About Me.

Alex actually worked part time for a while as a waiter there and one day while cleaning the tables with ‘Mr Sheen’ he looked up excitedly and exclaimed “Moving Pictures! – that’s what I’ll call my band!”. Alex gave up waiting tables! Alex's band after This Side Up was Moving Pictures.  

Matthew's band after Jai Bolo was Matt Finish  

Another act there was Matt Moffit who originally had a band called Jai Bolo (Sanskrit for ‘it’s OK’). Matt went on to fame with his band Matt Finish and had some great pop hits. Unfortunately, Matt died of a stroke in 2003.

This YouTube clip represents the type/style of atmosphere you would often find on Friday and Saturday nights at The Diff.

This is Glenn Cardier who played at the restaurant as a solo act and with his band The Cardinals. Buy Glenn's albums on iTunes.
















This was one of our favourite songs and went on to be released as a single. This clip is from 1980 and was just sent to him by a stranger in the last few weeks (July 2009) as he did not have a copy!

In the late 70's Kirk Lorange was one of Australia's top session guitarists and he was quite a regular at the restaurant with his amazing slide blues guitar and great Canadian vocal style. He was Richard Clapton's guitarist for many years and now has a successful guitar tuition business as well. Read Kirk's page about ANFSCD.

Kirk thinks this is an actual photo from a gig at the restaurant.

Kirk's album
No Apostrophe
is available
on iTunes.

In 1975 Jim and Mick Kenny formed Crossfire, Australia's most successful jazz-rock fusion band. Crossfire toured extensively and cut seven Albums, including a live album with American singer Michael Franks and Australia's first direct-to-disc LP.

This great clip was recently uploaded to YouTubel This is the quality of music we were all exposed to and mixed wiith, literally.  


They played quite regularly at the restaurant. The drummer Steve Hopes, who I got to know quite well, used my drum kit to save lugging his up there. He was one of Australia's top session drummers. Find Crossfire on iTunes

Paul Dengate played solo but also had various band line-ups. One of his first was with Vicki Larnach on keyboards and backing vocals plus David Mills on Drums.
Find Vicki's music on iTunes.

They had many names - 'The Dots' and 'The Humans'.

The list is actually quite endless for local performers: Glenn Cardier, Margret RoadKnight, Jim Dempsey, White Company, Flying Fish, Graham Lowndes, Incredible String Band founder Robyn Williamson, Kirk Lorange, Jeannie Lewis, Judy Bailey, Eggs Benedict with Nigel Westlake, Paul Dengate, Vicki Larnach, David Mills, Crossfire, Wendy Grace (Grose), The Bilgola Bop Band,

Most of the performances at the restaurant were solo or duo acts which meant they tended to be quiet and folky but we also had full-on LOUD rock bands. The 'pub scene' was not that popular on the North Shore and And Now For Something Completely Different offered a more refined musical experience. The performers enjoyed that intimacy as well.

More soon...

Stories: Simon I Sally I Jay I Paul I Kirk I Vivienne I Staff I Customers

Send your stories, photos, memorabilia and video to Jay

Vegetarian Restaurant/Venue 1975-1981

5 1/4 Brown Street, Chatswood, Sydney, NSW, Australia