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Le Mari restaurant on Newbury Street in Back Bay, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Alyssa Blumstein Photography

First look at Le Mari, Newbury Street's new Mediterranean bistro

The Back Bay boîte opens just in time for prime patio season, with a charming menu of drinks and dishes to share.

Jacqueline Cain
Written by
Jacqueline Cain

Leigh Whittaker spent the first 20 years of her career traveling the world—but now, she’s looking forward to spending every day just a few miles from home. In fact, that commitment is how her restaurant, Le Mari—opening this week on Newbury Street—got its name. “Everyone says you're going to be married to your restaurant,” the sales exec-turned-chef says, so she’s calling her Mediterranean bistro “the husband” in French.

Le Mari executive sous chef Jack Foley, chef-owner Leigh Whittaker and general manager Jake Fallon pose on Newbury Street outside their new restaurant
Photograph: Courtesy Alyssa Blumstein PhotographyLe Mari executive sous chef Jack Foley, chef-owner Leigh Whittaker and general manager Jake Fallon.
Le Mari dining room
Photograph: Courtesy Alyssa Blumstein PhotographyHues of blue and contemporary, Mediterranean-inspired light fixtures set the scene at Le Mari.

Just in time for patio season on one of the best promenades for people-watching in Boston, Le Mari plans to open Thursday, June 13, replacing Bar à vin 1855 at the Newbury Guest House. Next door to classic French restaurant La Voile, Le Mari is not doing similar cuisine, despite its French name. Whittaker describes dishes meant for sharing as “very true to French technique, but bringing in spices from Spain and Portugal and Italy, Greece, and even a little bit from North Africa, just to round out that Mediterranean flair.”

Comprising small plates, pastas, soups and salads, menu highlights at Le Mari include tartare-like carne crudo accented with sorrel, beech mushrooms and bone marrow aioli, a dish inspired by the summer Whittaker spent working at Earth at Hidden Pond in Kennebunkport, Maine. Duck confit cooked with orange and fennel and served atop a crispy rice cracker takes cues from a meal Whittaker loved at Nobu, she shares. And pansotti con cipolla is inspired by French onion soup: The pot-bellied pasta is filled with fontina cheese and onions and is served in a bowl of onion brodo. “It’s almost like a soup dumpling,” Whittaker explains.

The inspiration for the menu comes from her travels, but Whittaker's culinary prowess is homegrown. "I really wanted to use ingredients that were Mediterranean, but also that are seasonal so the menu will change as the seasons change," she says. Check out the opening menu below.

Whittaker obtained nursing and business degrees before embarking on a career selling medical devices across the globe. “I would put on about 250,000 miles a year and I was lucky enough to be exposed to a lot of different spices, different dishes,” she says. Back at home in Boston, she was an avid cook and host. When her travels were put on hold indefinitely by the pandemic, Whittaker decided to go back to school once again. “It gave me a little chance to reflect and get off the hamster wheel that I was on,” she says. 

Whittaker graduated at the top of her class from Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in 2021 and soon moved to Maine. “I said if I ever did this (became a professional cook), I'd want to work” at Earth, she says, noting the innovative farm-to-fine dining concept of the New England gem. The experience was as inspiring as she’d imagined, she says, physically picking herbs, vegetables and even flowers to bring back to her plates. Upon returning to Boston in September 2021, Whittaker became a line cook at Fox & the Knife to continue her education under James Beard award-winner chef Karen Akunowicz and her team. “I learned under some great chefs,” she says. She’s passing it on, too. Whittaker has “dabbled” as an instructor at Cambridge Culinary.

But for now, Le Mari will take all her attention. Executive sous chef Jack Foley, whom Whittaker met at Fox & the Knife, is her right hand in the kitchen. “Either Jack or I will be finishing all of the dishes, because we want to make sure they all look beautiful as they go out the door," she says.

General manager Jake Fallon is also a Fox alum. The team at Le Mari collaborated on a list of mainly old world wines, plus seasonal cocktails such as “Last Night” Lemonade (Green River bourbon, yuzu, mint) and Pick 6 Hibiscus (Corvus vodka, grilled pineapple, lime).

Whittaker is a majority owner of more than 50 percent of the new restaurant. She is partnering in Le Mari with Marty Bloom, a veteran restaurant entrepreneur in the Boston area; as well as a few silent investors. Bloom and Whittaker are great friends, she shares, and he helped broker the unique restaurant deal. Because of its location at the boutique hotel, Whittaker only had to petition the City of Boston for a change of manager on the restaurant’s liquor license, instead of ponying up several hundred thousand dollars to buy one of the city’s limited licenses.

Because of costs associated with opening in Boston, “I never thought I'd end up on Newbury Street,” says Whittaker, who puts the figure around $350,000 to get Le Mari open. That price wouldn’t have even covered a typical market-rate liquor license. She got the “incredible opportunity” for the restaurant deal through Bloom earlier this year, and has spent the past five months updating the place with new decor, furniture and lighting fixtures. Le Mari seats 48 inside, with a year-round patio on Newbury Street that adds another 20. The restaurant is also permitted for additional seasonal outdoor seating.

Le Mari is located at 259 Newbury St. in Boston's Back Bay. Beginning Friday, June 14, it will be open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday from 4:30pm until last call. In the coming weeks, plans are in the works to launch weekday lunch and weekend brunch at Le Mari. Stay tuned on social media for updates.

Le Mari menu
Courtesy Le Mari
Le Mari menu drinks
Courtesy Le Mari
Le Mari table detail
Photograph: Courtesy Alyssa Blumstein Photography
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