To call the Mayflower in St Leonards a restaurant would be an understatement. It is best described as an experiential dining destination where art, nature and the creations of talented chefs collide.
It’s also a follow-up to The Mayflower at Darlinghurst. But where the original is a cafe that brings art into the fold, the St Leonards iteration takes the concept and takes it to the next level.
“At Darlinghurst, we’re more of a cafe, and we’re limited by our small space,” said Kevin Ly, co-owner of the premises with Christian Lee. Large format. “St Leonards is a casual dining destination with more emphasis on dinner and lunch. We wanted to create a space that uses nature, looks like nature and works like nature.
The first thing you’ll notice – probably from the outside, through the floor-to-ceiling windows that enclose the venue – is Refik Anadolinstalling Quantum memories. To create it, the hugely popular Los Angeles-based artist combined 200 million images of nature with AI algorithms. The effect is a mesmerizing 3D dreamscape that continually changes, seeming to leap at the viewer.
Inside, the visual feast continues with two hanging installations by florist studio Don de L’Amour, led by Paris-trained floral designer Amy Thai. One features 300 preserved hydrangeas and 3000 custom-made paper butterflies, precisely positioned to shimmer in the sun. The other features two giant butterflies, whose wings double as floral sculptures and cast light at night.
The interior’s pale pink palette, designed by Something More Design’s Keeley Baird (who also created the Mayflower’s dreamlike Darlinghurst space), only heightens the drama of the facilities. Splashes of brass, marble, and ivory velvet create a luxurious feel in the spacious, light-flooded space, where 88 people are seated in 211 square meters. A pedestrianized and sunny area outside provides seating for another 33 people.
To complement the decadent design, there is a powerful team in the kitchen. It brings together executive chef Jihwan Choi (ex-Momofuku Seiobo), head chef Nicola D’Angelo (ex-Aqua Dining) and pastry chef Guillaume Pondruel (ex-Aria).
“In addition to expanding our concept, we wanted to evolve our offerings in terms of food, so we found the right talent,” says Ly.
The focus is on modern Australian casual fine dining with an Asian, particularly Korean twist. Start with the Wagyu tartare consisting of an MB2+ eye fillet, dressed with pine nut cream and gochujang (red chilli paste), and served on a crispy bugak (fried seaweed paper wrapped in rice). Then move on to grilled lobster with coconut-lime rice koji, or fried chicken with Korean spices. Another standout is toothfish, which grows at least 45 meters below the ocean surface in freezing cold waters, served here with homemade miso, finely grated ginger and cooling radishes and cucumbers. For a tangy dessert, try the yuzu baba covered in mango and topped with coconut snow and makrut lime leaves. Other highlights include the abalone salad and lobster sashimi. As at the Darlinghurst cafe, there is the possibility of adding truffles to any dish and there is a caviar service.
The wine list is the work of another of the best in the business: Pak Chan, Tetsuya’s sommelier. “He likes to make ordering difficult for me by ordering the best of each variety from the best of each supplier,” Ly says. “We are at around 100 wines at the moment and building up to 250.”
The premium list is a case around the world, ranging from riesling from Artemis in the Southern Highlands, to gruner veltliner from Spiegel in Kamptal, Austria, and a blend of grand cru cabernet from Chateau Langoa Barton in St. Julien, in France.
To complete the dining experience, live jazz bands play Wednesday through Friday evenings. And special events, such as crab and champagne nights, are in the works.
The Mayflower St Leonards
490 Pacific Highway, St. Leonards
0426 281 090
Mon & Tue 11am–3pm
Wed & Thu 11am–3pm, 5pm–10pm
Fri & Sat 8am–11am, 12pm–3pm, 5pm–11.30pm
Sun 8am–11am, 12pm–3pm