To call The Mayflower in St Leonards a restaurant would be an understatement. It’s better described as an experiential dining destination where art, nature and creations by skilled chefs collide.
It’s also a follow-up to The Mayflower in Darlinghurst. But where the original is a cafe that brings art into the fold, the St Leonards iteration takes the concept and supersizes it.
“In Darlinghurst we’re more of a cafe, and we’re limited by our small space,” Kevin Ly, who co-owns the venues with Christian Lee, tells Broadsheet. “St Leonards is a casual fine-dining destination where the focus is more on dinner and lunch. We wanted to create a space that uses nature, looks like nature, and functions like nature.”
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The first thing you’ll notice – probably from outside, through the picture windows that encase the venue – is Refik Anadol’s installation Quantum Memories. To create it, the enormously popular Los Angeles-based artist combined 200 million images of nature with AI algorithms. The effect is a mesmerising 3D dreamscape that changes continuously, appearing to leap out at the viewer.
Inside, the visual feast continues with two suspended installations by florist studio Don de L’Amour, led by Paris-trained floral designer Amy Thai. One comprises 300 preserved hydrangeas and 3000 custom-made paper butterflies, precisely positioned to shimmer in the sunlight. The other features two giant butterflies, whose wings double as floral sculptures and project light at night.
The pale pink palette of the interior, designed by Keeley Baird of Something More Design (who also created The Mayflower’s dreamlike Darlinghurst space), only serves to intensify the drama of the installations. Splashes of brass, marble and ivory-coloured velvet create a luxurious feel in the ample, light-flooded space, where 88 people sit across 211 square metres. A pedestrianised, sun-dappled area outside offers seating for another 33.
To complement the decadent design, there’s a powerhouse 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).
“As well as expanding our concept, we wanted to bring up our offerings in terms of food, so we got the right talent,” says Ly.
The focus is modern-Australian casual fine dining with Asian – particularly Korean – flair. Begin with Wagyu tartare made with MB2+ eye fillet, dressed with pine-nut cream and gochujang (red chilli paste), and served on crispy bugak (fried seaweed paper coated with rice). Then move onto grilled lobster with coconut-rice koji and finger lime, or fried chicken with Korean spices. Another standout is the toothfish, which grows at least 45 metres below the ocean’s surface in glacial-cold waters, served here with house-made miso, finely shredded ginger, and refreshing radish and cucumber. For a tangy dessert, try the yuzu baba layered with mango, and topped with coconut snow and makrut lime leaves. Other highlights include abalone salad and lobster sashimi. Like at the Darlinghurst cafe, there’s the option to add truffles to any dish you please, and there’s a caviar service.
The wine list is the work of another of the best in the biz: Pak Chan, Tetsuya’s sommelier. “He likes to make ordering difficult for me by ordering the best of every varietal from the best of every supplier,” says Ly. “We’re at around 100 wines at the moment and building up to 250.”
The premium list is a round-the-world affair, ranging from riesling by Artemis in the Southern Highlands, to gruner veltliner by Spiegel in Kamptal, Austria, and a grand cru cabernet blend by Château Langoa Barton in Saint-Julien, France.
To round out the dining experience, live jazz bands play on Wednesday to Friday nights. And special events, such as crab and champagne evenings, 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