When Lesa, the hotly anticipated restaurant above Embla officially opens on Wednesday, co-owners Christian McCabe and chef Dave Verheul will finally be able to answer the question they've been dodging for the past three years: "How's upstairs going?"
New Zealand architect Allistar Cox is behind the design (he also designed Embla and the Town Mouse). The ambience is similar to that at Embla. The walls have been stripped back to brick, and black steel windows have been fitted. Banquettes line the walls on the Russell Street side, and larger tables fill the rest of the space. The floor is a stained timber; a lighter timber has been used for the bar, and vibrant emerald green tiles frame the kitchen.
Up the back, a glass-walled wine room is stocked with an extensive range of new and old world wines. As with downstairs, there are some funky, unusual styles but McCabe has had the rare luxury of being able to build the cellar over the past three years, so expect to find rare bottles and back vintages, too.
The pitch is four courses for $78. Three options are available for each course – think raw flounder with hazelnut, green almond and pear leaf for first; arrow squid with braised parsley, clam and elderflower for second; aged pork loin with buckwheat miso, kale and pickled walnut for third; and salted bergamot meringue with koji, walnut and quince for dessert.
"It's very much the same ethos as what happens downstairs," says Verheul. "It's just presented in a slightly different format and a slightly different style."
If Embla is a place to go for a few drinks, Lesa, which means "to gather" in old Norse, is a place to spend the evening. "We want people to come up here and have some dinner, and just eat well, and drink well," says McCabe.
They haven't yet settled on opening hours, but initially they'll serve dinner from 6.30pm Wednesday to Saturday.
Level 1, 122 Russell Street, lesarestaurant.com.au