There’s no doubt about it, the loss of Urbane last year hit us hard—but a new venue has arrived to take over the space in the city they left behind, and you won’t need to save all your pennies and don your crispest collared shirt to score a table.
Leonards Bar & Bistro, officially opening this Wednesday 24 March at 181 Mary Street, has been inspired by the chic, modern bistros you’ll find in bustling international cities like New York and Paris. Relaxed enough to hit up for a mid-week lunch but equally as perfect for a date, the venue is pretty much unrecognisable from its former life as a swanky fine diner. And don’t worry that you’re still bereft of a funky after work drinks spot thanks to the closure of The Laneway, because Leonards also has a sister bar alongside it, Dawn.
Inside, Leonards is all about an old-world burgundy and gold vibe, with plenty of exposed brick walls, New York subway-looking tiling, hanging globe lights and peachy pink bench seating paired with bentwood chairs and a smattering of greenery. Dawn, meanwhile, has an almost French Riviera-feel, with scalloped chandeliers above plush grey stools at the bar, green lounges and an outdoor laneway featuring a vibrant mural. Both offer food and cocktails, so you can hop from one to the other or settle in to one for the night.
If you’re having trouble deciding which one to book first, maybe knowing what’s on the menu will help. At Leonard’s, you’ll find classic bistro dishes inspired by Spain, Italy, France and Greece. Think fresh oysters, steak tartare with potato crisps, country style pork terrine, char grilled skirt steak and hand cut fries with salbrixada (a Spanish salsa) and rack of lamb with a herb and pistachio crumb—and be sure to save room for the olive oil cake with lemon curd and meringues. For those just looking for a light lunch or afternoon snack, there’s also fancy sandwiches, cheese and charcuterie boards and a selection of sweet and savoury pastries.
Over at Dawn, you’ll find a menu more suited to snacking over cocktails, with eats like crispy fried chicken with Thai dipping sauce, jamon iberico with honey fermented garlic, fried organic tofu with sticky shiitake and saltbush and mountain pepper fried calamari.
As for what you'll be drinking, with award-winning mixologist, Marco Nunes, working on the drinks, you can bet the sips are going to be good. We love the sound of Leonards' 'Shorties'—minature bottled versions of their signature cocktails which mean you can try more of them. So if you can't decide between a Leo's Martini, with gin, dry apertif and green madarin, and a Autumn Negroni, with Tanqueray Rangpur Gin, sweet vermouth and rhubard and mandarin consommé, just order both. The list over at Dawn is equally as tempting, with some seriously creative sips on offer, along with a list of old and new world wines, beers and ciders.
You can read scope out all the details on Leonards and Dawn here.
Find more of the best restaurants in the CBD here.