A new chef and new menu mark the start of the new year at Leonards Bar & Bistro, bringing more innovative dining to the Brisbane CBD.
With Executive Chef Jimmy Richardson (ex Head Chef at Gerard’s Bistro, Bridge Room, Cafe Paci, Glass Brasserie, Café Roux) and internationally awarded consummate cocktail mixologist Marco Nunes as General Manager, Leonards is set to boost the return to city dining.
Leonards opened last year amid lockdowns bringing new energy to the CBD’s Mary Street. Brisbane diners with fond memories of The Euro and Urbane, which formerly occupied the site, won’t find anything that jogs their memories at Leonards. Instead, this incarnation harks of New York bistro with exposed rough brick walls, bentwood chairs and banquette seating combine the previously separate restaurant spaces.
Urbane’s classic underground dining area still remains largely untouched by the renovation while the laneway bar is now a bright, airy space called Dawn. The bar can be accessed via Spencer Lane or through Leonards.
What we ate
Jimmy Richardson’s new menu brings his brand of classic but contemporary cooking and big, bold flavours imbued with his rich international experience. Signature dishes include the scrumptious Spencer Gulf kingfish with lemon butter, yoghurt and sesame entrée and the smoked pineapple, coconut, kefir lime leaf with a rum butterscotch sauce dessert.
The menu is divided into five sections. Starting with small, one bite morsels and bread, it progresses into entrée sized dishes and single-serve mains with two large plates that are perfect for sharing. The mains dishes can be accompanied by an exciting selection of vegetable sides.
We sampled the dinner menu.
The appetisers come in single serves which gives diners an opportunity to sample many tastes. Order a few different plates and one for everyone!
- Wrapped in a corn husk, the still-warm, moist toasted brioche could be confused with a tamale. It is accompanied by piquant pickled walnuts and a light, almost grated corn butter. It was perfectly sized for one, but I managed to steal some of K2’s to sample. ($6 each)
- Lamb tartare came as an elegant, flavour-packed mouthful sized portion on an almond crisp with slivers of soft carrot. ($6 each)
- I couldn’t go past the chef’s signature dish of a soft, raw pattie of Spencer Gulf kingfish with lemon puree and yoghurt topped with intriguing contrast of lemon rind. It was adorned with bright green curry leaves. ($24).
- Two skewers of cubed, lightly charred duck breast delighted K2, but the alternating moist king brown mushrooms also on the skewer were all mine. A hidden benefit of having a non-mushroom eating partner. ($24)
While there’s a whole john dory with umami butter and a 1-kilo rump cap to share, you can also choose individual meals for a main. Sometimes not sharing is caring more, especially for those who don’t like seafood.
- My choice was a generous serve of lobster in the shell with a champagne sauce highlighted by fermented chilli butter with short spaghetti. ($40) As a non-chilli lover, I found the chilli butter very present, but well balanced.
- K2 always finds it hard to go past lamb. His elegantly plated, thick slice of tender, pink roasted saddle of Warwick lamb with a molasses sauce came with buttered turnips turning one of the least favoured vegetables into a star. ($35)
- I always find it hard to single out a dessert, so I let K2 go first. He, of course, chose my favourite, an intriguing mix of smoked pineapple with coconut and lime leaf, which came with an ample supply of rum butterscotch sauce. A satisfying but not so sweet finale with plenty of plate envy from me.
- A combination of chocolate, miso, puff pastry and banana nearly grabbed my attention but I settled on brown sugar ice cream with slices of fresh, soft apricot over an oaty biscuit base .
No-meat lovers will be pleased to know there is a vegan menu.
Leonards Brisbane chef Jimmy Richardson
Leonards chef Jimmy Richardson
Glasgow-born Richardson spent his early years in Amsterdam at Café Roux. Owned by French-born culinary legends Albert and Michel Roux, who discovered Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White, it was the perfect training ground.
But the true roots of Richardson’s love of food was inspired at the tender age of six. He broke his arm when he fell off a swing, so Mum took him to the supermarket with her when his arm was plastered. They went home and cooked ricotta and spinach filo baskets together, which started his “knack’ for cooking.
“I used to live close to my school growing up, so I would go home at lunch to save money. My Mum was at work so I’d have to cook it myself and it needed to be quick so I could make it back to school on time. I would make pasta and rice dishes where all my friends had a sandwich,” Richardson said. “That’s when I realised I could cook.”
He left school at 15 and started at a cooking college.
A year on a working holiday in Australia saw Richardson work at Luke Mangan’s Glass Brasserie, Altitude at the Shangri-La, Cafe Paci and The Bridge Room.
Richardson moved to Brisbane with his wife and young son to take up a role as Head Chef at Gerard’s Bistro in April 2021 and moved to Leonards in February 2022.
Innovative wine and cocktail list
To match the menu, a perfectly paired cocktail and wine list has been expertly crafted by internationally award-winning mixologist and General Manager Marco Nunes (ex Canvas Bar, Papa Jack’s). His classic-style cocktails are made with a signature seasonal twist using modern techniques.
Here you don’t have to choose between a Martini or a Margarita. Simply sample the menu widely with a mini cocktail menu offering a short version of the classic.
Marco’s cocktail list also has a wide selection of alcohol-free and low ABV cocktails. These are ideal for those who want to skip the alcohol but not the flavour. There’s also an expertly curated selection of wines from the new and old worlds.
Where is Leonards?
Leonards Bar & Bistro is located at 181 Mary Street in Brisbane’s CBD. It is open Tuesday to Friday from 7 am until late. On Saturday the restaurant opens from 4 pm and closes late.
Eat drink and be Kerry was a guest of Leonards Bar & Bistro.
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