Old world meets new at Brisbane City’s Leonard’s Bar & Bistro and Dawn on Spencer
Last week Brisbane City’s dining scene welcomed a newcomer to its midst, one that has put its own singular stamp on one of The City’s most hallowed restaurant spaces. New York and Paris-inspired bistro Leonard’s and laneway bar Dawn on Spencer have officially launched in the old Urbane and The Euro space on Mary Street, showcasing a multifaceted drinking and dining offering curated by a group that’s earned its bread and butter by raising the standard of hospitality across the nation.
It’s not often that you see a specialised hospitality training business open its own standalone dining venue, but when you think about it, the move makes a lot of sense. For Allara Learning – a national vocational education and training provider specialising in hospitality and retail – creating a product that showcases (and is a testament to) the group’s quality of work is a new approach, but one that quickly proved to be an unmissable opportunity. Allara Learning is the body behind Leonard’s Bar & Bistro and Dawn on Spencer, two different but ideologically linked venues that recently opened in The City. The venture is making use of the red-brick building formerly home to hatted restaurant Urbane and its more casual bistro sibling The Euro, significantly transforming the interior in order to showcase two distinct modes of hospitality. The group’s CEO Andrew Lewis has assembled a crew of accomplished industry veterans to oversee both aspects, with Irish ex-pat Enda Gaffey (ex-Jellyfish, Libertine and London Fields) taking on the mantle of head chef, while award-winning mixologist Marco Nunes (ex-Canvas) will oversee the bar and day-to-day operations as general manager.
The team is taking in influence from local and international trends for Leonard’s and Dawn’s underlying concepts, tapping into the needs and wants of the inner-city crowd before synthesising every inspirational element into two fully realised entities. For Leonard’s, key influences include the chic and modern bistros found in New York City and Paris – comfortable eateries that boast spades of street-facing appeal and oodles of interior character. Brisbane-based designer Alexa Nice and construction specialists Inspired Built were recruited to spearhead the aesthetic overhaul for both halves, spotlighting Leonard’s exposed-brick features, complementing them with a burgundy-and-gold colour scheme and sophisticated old-world touches including subway-tiled floors, cushy banquettes and a scratch-built bar. The Leonard’s menu lends itself to long lunches and intimate group dinners, with a Mediterranean-inspired menu of bistro staples featuring oysters, country-style pork terrines, socca (chickpea crepes), steak tartare with gaufrette potato chips, hand-rolled tagliatelle pasta, smoked chicken Maryland and herb-and-pistachio-crumbed racks of lamb. An all-day deli-style menu will also offer toasted sandwiches, baguettes and paninis, plus coffee for those seeking a jolt. The bar leans into both New York and European influences, with a clutch of aperitifs, miniature classic cocktails (affectionally dubbed ‘Shorties‘) and a host of old- and new-world wines helping to sharpen one’s hunger as well as wet one’s whistle.
Dawn on Spencer, which is accessible via Spencer Lane, takes a more youthful approach to its visual style. Plucking inspiration from the French Riviera, Dawn’s interior aesthetic is much lighter tonally when compared to Leonard’s more masculine character. The space has been embellished with blues, greens and white marble, while a window overlooking the laneway adds natural light to the space throughout the day. Guests can also opt for alfresco sipping in the laneway space, which boasts a colourful mural adorning a feature wall. Dawn’s food menu is more conducive to light snacking, with small plates like pork rillettes, dusted and fried organic tofu, fried calamari with saltbush and mountain pepper, and crispy fried chicken with Thai dipping sauce pairing perfectly with Dawn’s range of bright, effervescent cocktails – many of which are imbued with citrus, figs and olives for a punchy European twist. Both venues will adopt a seasonally agile approach to food and cocktail menu shake-ups, though an emphasis on clean, modern flavours and the use of local produce will remain a focus. Soon the team will unveil private dining spaces beneath Leonard’s and above Dawn, both of which will cater to a variety of functions, while the latter will also be able to handle venue overspill.
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