EXCLUSIVE — Expect to see a new Aura on South Eola Drive after the first of the year. That’s to be the name of a new restaurant and lounge that will open in the 101 Eola condominium building. The project is a partnership of Jesse Newton, Erica Herman and Ricky McIntosh. Newton and Herman were previously with Blue Martini, the ultra lounge at Mall at Millenia, he as the managing partner and she as the VIP manager; McIntosh was with Dragon Room on Church Street.
Newton told me that the three will draw from their bar experiences, but Aura will also be serious about its food. “We really didn’t want to be just a bar,” he said. (The name of the chef is being withheld because of current employment, but it would seem that the group will indeed be serious about the food.) Newton said if he were to compare the menu to an existing restaurant, Ocean Prime would most closely match it. But he said they will offer a variety of menu items, each based on market freshness, and the kitchen will offer tapas sizes of all the entrees. In addition, the bar will feature freshly squeezed fruit juices.
The restaurant and lounge will be open until 2 every day, and will open at 8 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays for breakfast. Newton says he wants to create the sort of place that is typical of Manhattan neighborhoods, where there is a different type of customer and feel to the restaurant at various times of the day.
The restaurant will seat 180 inside and 30 at an outside patio, which will also feature a bar. Because of the day-long work hours — as well as some details to be released at a later date — the business will employ a staff of 150-160.
Newton said the group hopes to have Aura open as soon as possible after the first of the year.
This is the second new restaurant announced this week for this area. As I reported on Monday, Napa’s Stone-Fired Pizza and Draft House is slated to open in the Sanctuary condominium building across the street later this year. Aura will be on the other end of the 101 Eola building from Mucho, whose owners, some of which are involved in Napa’s, also announced a package liquor store that will open between Mucho and Aura. Looks like this neighborhood, which at one time featured Graze, the Beacon and Sanctuary Diner, all now closed, is starting to come back.