Read our restaurant review of Restaurant Leo, a great new Italian eatery in Sydney's Angel Place.
It’s the almost-fine-diner Sydney didn’t know it was missing. But since quietly slipping into first gear last winter after a few lockdown-led false starts, Restaurant Leo has made itself an integral part of Angel Place, one of the CBD’s most happening nooks.
Looking faintly Parisian under a laneway awning, with double-linen clothed tables inside, the space is welcomingly familiar; the service, likewise. The Italian-accented menu is the love child of chefs and business partners Federico Zanellato of LuMi (renowned for Japanese-inspired Italian) and Karl Firla of now-closed Newtown diner Oscillate Wildly.
“When this amazing location came up,” says Zanellato of Restaurant Leo’s early days, “it was like a dream come true.” But one week into trading, “the city was slowly emptying – it turned into a ghost town”.
That they’ve bounced back is testament to a care for produce, precision and fine flavours. Case in point? An immaculately presented King George whiting fillet on a salsa verde base, sparked with mustard and pickle. Or the neat veal saltimbocca parcels with sage, fontina and prosciutto that have become an instant favourite among diners.
Yes, there’s pasta and given Zanellato’s north-Italian heritage, there’s risotto. Maccheroncini is luxe with lobster (and truffle shavings in season), while a glossy ink-black risotto of cuttlefish and peas unites east and west in true LuMi style – using Japan’s prized koshihikari rice.
A fun cheese course delivers a faintly wobbly parmesan custard, fluffy on top and spiked with crunchy shards of Sardinian crispbread. But it’s Firla’s desserts that are his co-owner’s favourite. Inventions include a little pear and almond frangipane cake on a base of buttered, crumbled pretzels. “Savoury and sweet together, so clever – he amazes me every time,” says Zanellato. And just wait for winter, when the truffleon- truffle glory of tartufo gelato appears.
Restaurant Leo is already a beautiful thing. But while they’re pacing themselves now, watch this space. “If the city really comes alive again,” says Zanellato, “well, we have plans.”