Canberra’s favourite Canadian, Leeroy Peterson, and Sophia, his astute, spunky partner in both life and business, have created another magical venue together. The two are thrilled with how Kodiak Bar, their cocktail lounge, has transformed from concept to vibrant reality.
While Caribou, their family-friendly brassy sports bar with a heart as wide as the Canadian prairies, has Leeroy’s imprint all over it, Kodiak is Sophia to a T.
“When I go out, I want the music to be loud and the lighting to be dark!” Sophia says.
“With Kodiak, we wanted to create a chic place where we can relax with our friends, and where you can relax with your friends. It’s casual, fun, playful and a little upmarket.”
It is 4 pm when I arrive at Kodiak. After finding a car park along Kennedy St in Kingston, and just as I begin plugging the location into my phone maps, I hear the music floating out of a building up ahead and decide to just follow my ears. The first thing I notice on entering, apart from that stunning bar, is all the seating areas and nooks. Named after the world’s largest brown bear, Kodiak creates a cozy atmosphere in the massive space that used to be Salotto Bar and Kitchen and, before that, the Kennedy Rooms.
The interior takes its inspiration from a recent visit to Vancouver, incorporating natural textures and colour, layers of greens and browns on the walls, in the wood features and leather banquettes. Warm, moody and atmospheric, the lighting draws your gaze up to the unique wooden slats of the ceiling overhead.
Opposite the bar, deep booth seating, soft and luxurious, curves around long narrow tables perfect for sharing nibbles as you drink. The protective hulk of a full-walled Kodiak bear guards the chalkboard menu highlighting the current specials. Closer to the entrance, wood-panelled windows let warm afternoon sunshine stream in, filling the windowsill bench nook with soft light.
Six Kodiak bears cavort across the side wall, each indulging in a different beverage of choice, oblivious to the wide booths beneath their feet.
“When I come in, I head straight to the champagne booth,” Sophia laughs, pointing at the booth above which the bear sits in deep reflection on a bench, champagne flute in hand.
The Kodiak concept is something the couple have thought of doing off and on since their Elk and Pea days. “We have wanted to do something a little different for a few years – a nice cocktail bar, a place to hang out and celebrate,” Leeroy says.
“Not a restaurant, not a pub. Something in-between. Where, if you want one king prawn with a martini, you can. And if you don’t want to eat, that’s OK, too.”
“When I go out with my girlfriends, I want to eat but I don’t always want to go to a white-tablecloth restaurant. I want to go to a bar, but I don’t want to go to a nightclub. I want something accessible where you have a lot of fun, where the vibe can be heaving; lots of energy and super fun. Somewhere you want to come to every Friday.”
With two trained sommeliers on staff, Kodiak bar takes its quality wine seriously. Craft brewed beer and creative cocktails are also on the menu.
What about the food?
Executive Chef Ben, who previously cheffed at Raku, has crafted a diverse menu around the Kodiak vibe with playful dishes among classics.
The menu features oysters, salmon tartare, beetroot tartare and kingfish tostadas.
“We do a cheeseburger and it’s the best!” Leeroy raves. “It is medium-rare perfection. We do hand-pulled flatbreads instead of pizzas and offer a late-night menu of jaffles, mezze plates and cheeseboards.”
Of course, there are also vegan and gluten-free options.
I try Leeroy’s much-loved Kingfish tostadas.
Citrus-kissed Kingfish cubes melt in your mouth on a bed of smooth avocado, with crispy tostadas to scoop up that deliciousness. The serving plate is ingeniously curved so I can easily catch escaping Kingfisher cubes with my tostada rather than chasing them around a plate.
My hand-pulled flatbread is strewn with juicy morsels of pork belly and Pringles and a balsamic honey drizzle. Two things take this plate from yum to SCRUM for me.
First, that sauce! Balsamic with a drizzle of honey and fresh rosemary brings a sticky sweetness and earthy musk to the dish.
Second, the wafer-thin middle section of the flatbread is deliciously crispy and toasted. The balsamic drizzle has pooled a little, but instead of becoming soggy, it is now a little like eating a honeycomb in crispy wafer form. Pure perfection.
Leeroy and Sophia want Kodiak to be a place that brings people together to celebrate events, occasions and milestones. Kodiak’s private dining room fits 15 people and will debut soon.
Kodiak Bar is located at 23 Kennedy Street in Kingston. It is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 4 pm until late.