On a block of old buildings in downtown Eugene, a shimmering new restaurant pops out. Two bright white picnic tables, a black bike rack and a turquoise-blue planter with “Lion & Owl” written in white are positioned out front.
Inside the restaurant, cutlery and polished wine glasses sparkle at each table, and natural light glints off the silver body of an entire Airstream Land Yacht trailer, which is parked on the side of the dining room.
The trailer, which houses seating and a bar, was the former home of the restaurant when it was a food truck in the Whiteaker area last year. Lion and Owl is now located between Oak Street and Oak Alley on E 11th Avenue. The restaurant serves brunch every day and dinner Thursday through Saturday. The menu mainly highlights local ingredients, but also includes foreign champagne and caviar.
The restaurant’s design is modern and elegant. The decor would fit in perfectly in Portland’s Northwest or Pearl District, but is unusual for a Eugene eatery.
The ceiling is high. The kitchen is on open display for customers. Wood tables match wood paneling on the wall. Stainless-steel counters and stoves in the kitchen match the sparkling silver Airstream. Blue napkins match blue water-glasses, the blue stripe on the air stream and the blue planter outside.
Attention to image and detail is evident everywhere. The menu and website are well written and aesthetically pleasing. The restaurant’s motto, “Brunch for the Fierce and Wise,” is bold and memorable.
But unfortunately, good design is expensive. If you want to leave with a full stomach, you’ll leave with an empty wallet. Brunch for one can easily cost $27 before a tip, without drinks.
Lion and Owl serves tapas-style plates meant to be shared for brunch. Tapas are notoriously small and expensive in the United States, but this restaurant’s portions are especially meager.
Every dish is innovative and made with unusual, quality ingredients from local farmers, foragers, bakers and butchers that are listed on the restaurant’s website. However, some of the plates do not do the ingredients justice.
The “Wild Fennel and Bread Pudding” with Oregon crawfish, smoked trout roe and crawfish bisque was gorgeous when it came out on a plate, but disappointing after a couple bites. Each ingredient was delicious on its own, but everything was heavily salted and the combination was cacophonous. The bread pudding was strongly flavored before being covered in capers and nearly-pickled slices of fennel stalk. The salt and cream in the bisque overpowered the briny, smoky trout roe.
A few bites of the dish with a glass of champagne could have been good, but it was far too salty for one person to finish.
The “Toasted Oat Groats” with kale raab, grilled Meyer lemon vinaigrette and cured egg yolk was better, but the pile of oat, egg and vegetable that was served was small for a nine-dollar dish.
Still, the creativity in the menu paid off with some dishes.
The “Duo of Savory Cheese Macarons” was a tasty starter. In one of the two, Meyer lemon added a refreshing tang to the sweet macaron and creamy goat cheese. The other, filled with almond and green garlic soft cheese, was also delicious.
You shouldn’t go to Lion and Owl expecting a hearty, affordable brunch. But if you want to drink champagne and share some surprising snacks with friends in a stylish restaurant, this may be the place for you.