Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Another Look at The One and Only, The Only on King

Another Look at The One and Only, Only on King

Nov 23rd 2016: Approaching its 10th year, TOOK (The Only on King), with its fully realized farm-to-table philosophy, devoted acknowledgement of the local terroir and support of local farmers and producers, was the personification and outstanding archetype of the virtuous up-to-the-minute Ontario restaurant. According to several sources the landmark TOOK has ceased operations. The restaurant will be missed by its legions of fans. We wish Paul Harding and staff best wishes in their future endeavours.


In its eight year, The Only on King, with its fully realized farm-to-table philosophy, devoted acknowledgement of the local terroir and support of local farmers and producers, remains the personification and outstanding archetype of the virtuous up-to-the-minute Ontario restaurant.

The restaurant’s kitchen, led by Paul Harding is a self-proclaimed “labour of love.” When Harding is not chained to the stove, he and his culinary team continue to find new ways to integrate the locavore ethic into all aspects of “The Only”.

Harding began preparing family meals in his youth and developed a passionate enthusiasm for cooking. After high school, Harding moved to Toronto to attend George Brown College. Harding worked in Toronto at Café Societa and Michelle's Brasserie, honing his skills and was later employed as the chef de partie at Auberge du Pommier and the much heralded JOV Bistro, an internationally acclaimed neighbourhood bistro in its heyday. 

The difficulties and disciplines of local food procurement and executing an ever-changing daily menu with a deep appreciation of the seasonal palate has been evidence of the kitchen’s continuing dedication. And it needs to be just that, to keep up with the demands and disciplines of an ever-changing daily menu.

This style of farm-to-table menu is unique by London standards and something that very few chefs/restaurateurs would be in a position to execute with the kind of success that Harding has achieved. The menu is distinctive, accessible and highlights the best local products and ingredients available. Believe me this is no easy feat – it is a very labour-intensive, hands-on approach given the traditionally slim profit margins in this style of restaurant.

The cooking repertoire emphasizes the traditions of classic French and Italian cuisine and the aesthetics of modern British cuisine.  Located in a historic building and former dairy on King Street in the London downtown dining district, the restaurant has a welcoming character with just that right amount of off-the-cuff insouciance that often comes with success. The conversational hum can be loud when the restaurant is hopping – which is most nights.

Incidentally, “The Only” was voted number 6 of “Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2008” by enRoute magazine. It has lived up to its early accolades and the kitchen does not rest on its laurels. “The Only” is collaborative by nature and there have been many events where “The Only” has partnered with other culinary notables like: Victor Barry of Splendido, Vineland’s Tawse Winery and Nick and Nat 's Uptown 21", a gourmet hot spot in Waterloo.  A  collaboration with Michael Caballo and Tobey Nemeth of Edulus restaurant in Toronto (which was voted number 1 of “Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2012” by enRoute magazine) was a much talked about sold-out success.

Dinner at “The Only” on King begins with a basket of warm, white-linen-wrapped house-made bread accompanied by long, crisp, melt-in-your-mouth breadsticks and a pot of salty, creamy butter. In keeping with their philosophy of local food procurement, flour, grains and legumes are sourced from Mike Mathews, owner of the historic Arva Flour Mills.

The list of local producers that “The Only” supports is extensive.  Farben Farms is Harding’s choice for Berkshire Pork raised in a natural environment with no additives, hormones or drugs. Another producer and culinary farmer, Lo Maximo Meats is an outgrowth of Spence Farms, a 5th generation family farm located in Chatham- Kent. Paul and Sara Spence’s  Lo Maximo Meats offers traditionally raised beef, pork, chicken, goat, lamb and eggs with no hormones or steroids, aged and flash frozen by a local abattoir and sold at regional Farmers’ Markets but with a Latin American sensibility.

The Only on King’s classic Boudin (white sausage) of  chicken has become a delicious signature dish, on this occasion it was served with a fried egg, Swiss chard and garlic sauce.  Our charismatic waiter, Margeaux Levesque, gave me a binder with a dossier on candidates for my dinner entitled “From Our Family Farm To Your Fork” – “Meet Your Chicken!”  There was a dizzying array of potential contenders and all had lived a happy life on the Spence family farm where they “had the opportunity to roam in an open area with fresh air, sunshine, bugs, grass and weeds to feed on”.  The information provided included: date of birth, markings/distinguishing characteristics, likes, dislikes and other personal information that included questionable hobbies and diet.

In addition to Harding’s often ironic sense of humour he is proficient at butchering and making many house-made specialties: bacon, sausage, terrines, galantines, pates and confits. Charcuterie, once considered the dominion of bourgeois cooking, was practically a lost art until the emergence of the farm-to-table movement and the tattooed hipster chef. Butchering, poaching, braising, sautéing, and sauce-making are the fundamental skills the kitchen employs to attain their objective: superb taste. 

“The Only’s” kitchen has an aptitude for cooking lesser-known cuts of meat to great versatility. I have many memories of organic flat-iron steak, braised shin and grilled organic beef heart  cooked to perfection. Simple sauces at this restaurant accentuate flavour elevating a good piece of meat or fish to a superior one.  An appetizer that the kitchen turned into an entrée of golden-brown, FisherFolk-sourced tuna meatballs, were braised in tomato with olives, capers and pine nuts, accompanied by knock-out gnocchi.  

This kitchen crafts silky crème brûlées and a yummy pavlova-like dessert aptly named Eton mess with berries sourced from Heeman’s Berry Farms.

Guests are allowed to bring their own wine for a corkage fee. The wine list is interesting and varied featuring good quality VQA's. There are always several house made seasonal cocktails with a varied selection of bottled and draft beer. The restaurant is a supporter and proponent of Food Day Canada and is listed in Where to Eat in Canada.

Harding plays to all his strengths with a tight grasp on the tenets of terroir and sustainability. Chef’s culinary viewpoint and cooking repertoire continue to astound while drawing farm-to-table enthusiasts, to the intimate 40-seat dining room. If you are looking for your inner gastronome this is the ticket.


The Only on King

172 King St, Londonwww.theonlyonking.ca

519- 936-2064

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Air Canada's enRoute magazine announces 2014 Canada's Best New Restaurants and People's Choice Award winner

Air Canada's enRoute magazine announces 2014 Canada's Best New Restaurants and People's Choice Award winner

Air Canada's enRoute magazine announces 2014 Canada's
Best New Restaurants and People's Choice Award winner

Tofino, B.C.’s Wolf in the Fog named Canada's Best New Restaurant, and
Saskatoon, SK’s Ayden took top votes on eatandvote.com

TORONTO - October 23, 2014 - Canada's award-winning inflight magazine, Air Canada's enRoute, is pleased to announce the Top 10 list of Canada's Best New Restaurants 2014, as well as the winner of the Air Canada enRoute Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2014 People’s Choice Award. On a month-long culinary journey that took noted food writer Andrew Braithwaite from Tofino, British Columbia to St. John’s, Newfoundland, he discovered a group of chefs, sommeliers and restaurateurs who continued to explore this country’s terroir and redefine what it means to dine out in Canada.

The Top 10 restaurants in order are:

1. Wolf in the Fog (Tofino): “On the extreme west coast of Vancouver Island, where rainforest meets ocean, you stumble up a flight of stairs and into a soaring cedar-clad room above a surf shop where chef Nick Nutting leads a crew trained in the precise details of fine dining.”

2. The Farmer’s Apprentice (Vancouver): “Each small plate – more often, a bowl – conjured by owner David Gunawan is a precise jumble of textures and flavours. Digging in is a sort of black magic.”

3. Le Vin Papillon (Montreal): “Long-time Joe Beef guru Vanya Filipovic fills massive chalkboards with organic wines to run with a vegetable-focused cuisine from boyfriend and chef Marc-Olivier Frappier.”

4. RGE RD (Edmonton): “The heart of Blair Lebsack’s kitchen is a wood-burning oven that consumes birch and maple at 700° F, curing honey ham and smoking Salt Spring Island mussels or even dehydrated local milk during the off-hours.”

5. Mallard Cottage (St.John’s): “Todd Perrin spent two years restoring a heritage property in Quidi Vidi Harbour for this brilliant mash-up of fine dining and comfort cuisine on the outskirts of St. John’s.”

6. Bar Buca (Toronto): “Rob Gentile’s restaurant likes to pretend it’s a simple bar for sipping Barolo. You’re here to drink, sure, but you’re also here to eat things like tiny fried smelt dusted with fennel salt.”

7. The Chase (Toronto): Chef Michael Steh doesn’t lean on molecular trickery or audacious ingredients to wow. His food is more direct and more delightful than that, in an atmosphere that makes you want to say yes to things.

8. Ayden (Saskatoon): Top Chef Canada winner Dale MacKay gambled that Saskatoon was ready for lime- and lemongrass- and ginger-dusted chicken wings. Ayden isn’t about showing off Prairie cooking to the world – it’s about bringing the world home.”

9. Légende (Quebec City): Northern Quebec is the culinary hunting ground that Frédéric Laplante mythologizes at his capital-city bistro. Cornish hen gets a boreal accent from balsam fir fleur de sel.”

10. Edna (Halifax): Jenna Mooers’ North End bistro digs up treasure from the fertile soils of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley and hauls it out of the brisk Atlantic waters.”

Shot behind-the-scenes at the top three restaurants, short films directed by John Cullen and Chris Muir can be viewed onboard Air Canada flights and on http://enroute.aircanada.com/canadas-best-new-restaurants-2014/. Winners will be profiled in the November issue of Air Canada’s enRoute.

The Top 10 restaurants will officially receive their awards during the annual Canada’s Best New Restaurants Gala celebration on November 20 in Toronto.


Tofino, British Columbia 150 Fourth St, Tofino, BC | 250-725-9653 |wolfinthefog.com

Nº 2 The farmer’s apprentice 
Vancouver, British Columbia
1535 W. 6th Ave., Vancouver, BC | 604-620-2070 |

Montreal, Quebec 2519, rue Notre-Dame O. |vinpapillon.com

Edmonton, Alberta 10643 123rd St. N.W. | 780-447-4577 |rgerd.ca

St. John's, New Foundland 8 Barrows Rd. | 709-237-7314 |mallardcottage.ca

Toronto, Ontario 75 Portland St. | 416-599-2822 barbuca.com

Toronto, Ontario 10 Temperance St. | 647-348-7000 |thechasetoronto.com

Saskatoon, Sakatchewan 265 3rd Ave. S. | 306-954-2590 |aydenkitchenandbar.com

Nº 9 Légende 
Quebec City, Quebec  255, rue Saint-Paul | 418-614-2555 |

Nº 10 Edna        
Halifax, New Brunswick
2053 Gottingen St. | 902-431-5683 |

Voted by the people for the people : Chef Dale Mackay's
 Ayden in Saskatoon

In partnership with lead sponsor Jaguar Land Rover Canada, Air Canada's enRoute encouraged Canadians to select their favourite new restaurant on eatandvote.com. Ayden, the Saskatoon restaurant from Top Chef Canada winner Dale Mackay, received Air Canada enRoute Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2014 People’s Choice Award. The contest offered a chance to vote to win a trip for two to the 2014 Canada's Best New Restaurants gala event in Toronto, with the use of a vehicle.

"The quality and diversity of this year’s restaurants are incredible, and provide our readers with a resource for where to dine in cities like Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, St. John’s, Edmonton, Halifax, and Saskatoon," said Louise McKenven, Senior Director, Marketing, Air Canada. "Pairing our annual feature with a compelling in-flight video series of the top three restaurants will provide Air Canada passengers with a full course of dining options from coast to coast."

"This year's search proved the diversity of Canadian cuisine and that chefs are continuing to further the culinary experience," explained Ilana Weitzman, editor-in-chief, Air Canada’s enRoute magazine. "Once again we went looking for good people who've dedicated themselves to delivering memorable experiences. There was a clear favourite in Dale MacKay’s restaurant Ayden, which ranked in our Top 10 and took the lion’s share of Canada’s votes on eatandvote.com."

About Jaguar Land Rover Canada ULC

• Jaguar Land Rover is the UK’s largest automotive manufacturing business built around two iconic British car brands with a rich heritage and powerful consumer appeal and loyalty. Additionally, Jaguar Land Rover is at the centre of the UK automotive industry’s drive to deliver technical innovation in all areas of vehicle development.
• Jaguar Land Rover has two state of the art engineering and design facilities and three advanced manufacturing plants in the UK.
• Jaguar Land Rover employs 25,000 people and sells vehicles in 170 countries around the world.
• Headquartered in Mississauga in Canada, Jaguar Land Rover Canada ULC is represented by 23 retail outlets.

About Air Canada

Air Canada is Canada’s largest domestic and international airline serving more than 180 destinations on five continents. Canada’s flag carrier is among the 20 largest airlines in the world and in 2013 served more than 35 million customers. Air Canada provides scheduled passenger service directly to 60 Canadian cities, 49 destinations in the United States and 73 cities in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Mexico and South America. Air Canada is a founding member of Star Alliance, the world’s most comprehensive air transportation network serving 1,269 airports in 193 countries. Air Canada is the only international network carrier in North America to receive a Four-Star ranking according to independent U.K. research firm Skytrax that ranked Air Canada in a worldwide survey of more than 18 million airline passengers as Best Airline in North America in 2014 for the fifth consecutive year. For more information, please visit: aircanada.com.

enRoute is Air Canada’s award-winning travel magazine with over one million readers each month. The magazine — available exclusively on all Air Canada flights and in Maple Leaf Lounges worldwide as well as in select hotels and boutiques across North America — is an inspirational authority for the global traveler, known for its strong visual presence and innovative design. Air Canada’s enRoute is published by Spafax, one of the world’s leading content marketing agencies and providers of in-flight media, with offices in 14 cities around the world.

Follow on Twitter and Instagram @enroutemag #enroutetop10.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Independent Purveyors and Small-batch Coffee Roasters in London, Ontario

If London, Ont., knows one thing, it's farmers' markets. And coffee. Alright, that's two things, but two things the city of 350,000 is rightfully proud of, thanks to years of developing a community that loves local produce as much as it craves freshly roasted beans — which is also carried over into the restaurant scene.”

Independent Purveyors and Small-batch Coffee Roasters in London, Ontario


The emergence of London’s small-batch coffee roasters emphasizes the passion that exists for fairly traded, environmentally responsible, and ethically sourced coffee beans. The astounding growth of the burgeoning coffeehouse/cafe niche in the intensely competitive coffee market dominated by Starbucks and Tim Horton’s is nothing short of remarkable.

Lately there has been an unprecedented increase of upmarket cafés that are part grab-and-go café, part bakery, and part casual dine-in restaurant, some of which are licensed. The quest of coffee drinkers for artisanal, small hand-batched roasts with diverse flavour profiles is unmatched. It has been recently suggested that in addition to its other well-documented effects, a cup of coffee will improve your memory.

Hasbeans is operated by the hospitable Smith family, who have been Covent Garden Market merchants for more than 125 years. Their coffee business continues to be hands-on with Paul (third generation), Debbie (fourth) and Joel (fifth). While promoting the distinct qualities that each coffee bean develops in its natural environment, Hasbeans’ stalwart owners and staff have become a Covent Garden Market institution for their fair trade offerings and personalized service. Hasbeans’ hand-selected and imported coffees are offered as both green (raw) and roasted coffee beans.

The Little Red Roaster was initially opened in 1995 and operated by former restaurateurs Anne and Archie Chisholm of Anthony’s Seafood Bistro. The Wortley Road location became a local institution and was the original café in what became a chain of independently owned franchises. Kendra Gordon-Green purchased the venture in 2002, adding several franchised Little Red Roaster locations in the downtown core, most notably at the Covent Garden Market and at the Central Library.

Entrepreneur Dave Cook started The Fire Roasted Coffee Co. in 2006. He had been roasting his own coffee beans in his garage, and launched Fire Roasted Coffee as a Saturday business at the Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market at Western Fair. Cook took over as owner of the market operation two years later and began to build his business portfolio. More recently he opened a flagship café (and his complementary business, Habitual Chocolate) in a renovated heritage building at King and Talbot streets. Just last month Cook opened another satellite Fire Roasted location in Wortley Village, in premises formerly occupied by The Little Red Roaster.

Cook leverages his expertise, networks and knowledge in order to shape a strong and enabling environment for social enterprise. Cook’s core business belief embraces the philosophy of supporting and mentoring people committed to sourcing quality products and invested in their place of origin. In the interest of global justice, Fire Roasted Coffee has established direct trade with producing countries to benefit the producers in a more substantial way.
Fire Roasted had supplied coffee to the nearby Black Walnut Bakery Café but that affiliation came to a halt. Cook approached Gordon-Green of the Little Red Roaster to give Fire Roasted a sustained presence and a higher profile in Wortley Village. Cook realizes that this location might have a limited shelf-life, as there are plans to expand Home Hardware into that space in the future. In the meantime, he views the Wortley Road location like a pop-up restaurant where he is able to create a different niche and new identity in the neighbourhood.

Patrick Dunham, the former general manager and lead roaster for The Fire Roasted Coffee Company, presided at the Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market at Western Fair location for six years. Working alongside Dave Cook, Dunham traveled to coffee farms learning all aspects of the coffee business from roasting and cupping to selling.
Dunham went to work as a sales manager for Imperial Coffee in February 2013. Wilson and Mandy Etheridge, owners of the Black Walnut Bakery Café approached Dunham to help set up Kingfisher Coffee Company as a wholesale coffee roaster and business. The Black Walnut Bakery Café built its reputation specializing in organic fair trade coffees and teas, seasonal soups, savoury quiches, bread, scones and squares, salads and light meals.

Mandy explained that they were looking for a niche that they felt was absent in the marketplace. “Unfortunately we could not find what we were looking for. It seemed our only option was to create our own one of a kind coffee roasting company.” This coffee roasting company would not only service the café, but would also provide coffee to other business and individuals around the city wanting the same characteristics in their coffee.

Recently Dunham set up his own roastery called Patrick’s Beans. Dunham’s goal is to offer high quality coffee blends that are roasted locally and sourced ethically. DunhamIn London I will be providing home delivery on a weekly basis of a core line of blends and roasts as well as have retail bags available at other places around the area. I am providing coffee to restaurants, cafes and business' across SW Ontario. I also offer a bunch of fundraising possibilities to non-profit and other groups across the region. Thanks all and remember there is never a good enough reason to run out of coffee when it can be delivered to your door.In London I will be providing home delivery on a weekly basis of a core line of blends and roasts as well as have retail bags available at other places around the area. I am providing coffee to restaurants, cafes and business' across SW Ontario. I also offer a bunch of fundraising possibilities to non-profit and other groups across the region. Thanks all and remember there is never a good enough reason to run out of coffee when it can be delivered to your door.In London I will be providing home delivery on a weekly basis of a core line of blends and roasts as well as have retail bags available at other places around the area. I am providing coffee to restaurants, cafes and business' across SW Ontario. I also offer a bunch of fundraising possibilities to non-profit and other groups across the region. Thanks all and remember there is never a good enough reason to run out of coffee when it can be delivered to your door. caters to the specific needs of clients and his strategy includes offering fund raising opportunities to non-profits as well as demonstrating transparent community involvement. Dunham roasts coffee beans in small batches and then blends them to attain tailor-made tastes and complexities that cannot be found in single varietal selections.

In London I will be providing home delivery on a weekly basis of a core line of blends and roasts as well as have retail bags available at other places around the area. I am providing coffee to restaurants, cafes and business' across SW Ontario. I also offer a bunch of fundraising possibilities to non-profit and other groups across the region. Thanks all and remember there is never a good enough reason to run out of coffee when it can be delivered to your doorLook for Patrick’s Beans at Ogilvie’s Market, Sunnivue Farm near Ailsa Craig, The Arva Flour Mill, Time to Chill in Woodstock and the regular places, like the Root Cellar, Hungary Butcher and The Rhino Bakery and Lounge.

The regular Patrick’s Beans are: Super F'n Dark (self-explanatory), Dark & Brewding (rich dark roast, Indonesia, Ethiopian, Guatemalan), Velvet Hammer (very smooth, medium dark, Guatemalan, Honduras), The Safe Choice (medium roast, Guatemalan, Honduras), Shotgun Romance (espresso blend, 5 different beans on the classic side) and Taste of Danger (decaf). The price for each of the coffees is $15 or two for $25, delivered to home or office in London.

Sisters Maria Fiallos and Valeria Fiallos-Soliman operate the coffee micro-roaster, Las Chicas del Café, on Exeter Road, which opened in 2005. The Fiallos family has been defined by coffee for generations, starting with their great-grandfather on the family’s coffee plantation in Las Sabanas, Nicaragua. The family was forced to flee Nicaragua in the 1980s during that country’s civil war, finally settling in London, Ontario in 1988. The sisters’ parents were eventually able to return to Nicaragua and re-establish the family’s coffee growing tradition with their mission of “quality, tradition and responsibility.” Today, plantation workers hand-pick, sun-dry and manually bag their annual harvest of dense, flavour-packed beans and send them to London to be roasted.

Charles and Jill Wright opened Locomotive Espresso in a building that has been a neighbourhood variety store for 45 years. Locomotive is located at the corner of Pall Mall and Colborne at the railroad tracks, in the former Helen’s Variety. Locomotive baristas have received strict training in Pilot Coffee Roaster’s Toronto espresso laboratory. Pilot took top honours in this year’s Roast Magazine’s annual Roaster of the Year competition saying, “Pilot’s exemplary marketing practices and dedication to offering quality coffee — evidenced by its education practices and construction of a state-of-the-art coffee-tasting lab — propelled the company to a win”.

Locomotive Espresso opened its doors looking to fill a growing worldwide thirst for local, independent coffee bars serving the highest quality beverages. Its direct trade beans are featured along with other “visiting” roasts from similarly skilled roasters.

 In addition to serving a great selection of Pilot Roast (Roast Magazineès Micro-Roaster of the Year 2014) coffees, lattes and espressos, brewed by professionally trained baristas on a La Marzocco GB5 (handmade in Florence, Italy), Londoners will find a variety of food and drink provided by a diverse collection of London and area based businesses. Locally-sourced products and services include fresh salads, paninis and baked goods from Heirloom Catering; fresh breads for the Toast Bar  from The Artisan Bakery; cold pressed juices from the Pulp & Press Juice Co.; organic teas from Wisdom Teashop and Clipper Teas (UK); biscotti from local pastry chef Michele Lenhardt; Kosuma Bars and Habitual Chocolate from the Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market at the Western Fair; and Nepalese chai tea, fresh rolls, and granola from Momo’s At The Market.
Locomotive Espresso is London's newest independent purveyor of caffeinated beverages and other fine coffee accessories including  Aeropress coffee makers (similar to a French press) and the eco-friendly KeepCup, the world's first barista standard reusable cup which are both getting rave reviews. They continue to brew the classic favourites and the flat white (Aussie) and cortado (South America) beverages are gaining popularity. And, for espressophiles visit Locomotive espresso bar in December to buy a day trip package for a Pilot Roaster bus trip to Toronto to tour the Pilot tasting bar and roastery, three selected espresso bars and your fill of coffee for the day. www.locomotiveespresso.com.

More and more it is worth embracing independents and small-batch artisanal coffee roasters. These types of businesses provide core commitments to quality, relationships and hands-on service. The coffee trade appears to be further inspired to leverage economies with social enterprise and environmental responsibility by their conduct, rather than driving profit by how they market themselves.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


The Huffington Post's "25 Places to Eat in London" was gleaned from this list. Due to the amount of traffic to this page I have had to repost this listing several times.

The food media are necessary members of the culinary community. Like any thoughtful patron, I hope that I bring appreciation and sensibility to the table. But the food media’s mission goes beyond that. We must pass our unbiased impressions on to the readers, while alerting the dining public to the diversity of choice on the culinary scene.

Are rating restaurants purely a question of taste? And within that there lies the matter of ingredients, innovation, style, consistency, service and much more. We place importance on other criterion such as, the wine list, the atmosphere, the setting, the service, philosophy and obviously, the price.
Good writing furnishes you with enough information and insight to enable you to make informed decisions, while helping to arbitrate the standards of dining out. If you don’t have a good, strong food media — whether you love them or despise them — you don’t have the same degree of interest, enthusiasm and accountability.
One of the greatest joys about writing about culinary matters is “unearthing the diamond in the rough”. In my opinion, among the disappointments are discovering restaurants that don’t live up to their reputations, or the complaining owner who has lost interest in the business and the writing is on the wall. Almost as bad is the culinary equivalent of grey: dull at worst, inoffensive at best. Or the one-trick pony — the great restaurant whose menu never changes, and quickly the food becomes stagnant.
Even more disappointing are those hosts/servers who ride on the chef’s laurels and the restaurant’s former accolades, thinking the chef’s/restaurant’s reputation gives them carte blanche to dispense surly, indifferent or poor service to their customers.
Despite the changing definition of restaurant professionalism, poor customer service and unfriendly reservation policies disappoint us, and good service fosters loyalty, which in turn inspires repeat business and great word-of-mouth. Every time I return to certain restaurants, it hits me just how much uninterested service irks me and how profoundly irritated its patrons must feel, even when the food is the cream of the crop. Once you have been trained to view things from both a chefs and a restaurateurs perspective it never leaves you. I have devoted most of my working life to both ends of this spectrum.

Reading someone else’s assessment of a restaurant is not necessarily enough for every reader to evaluate a restaurant. The real way to do a restaurant justice is to eat there. These are my opinions and reflect my professional expertise. This is the shortlist.


119 King Street 519- 675-9995 www.abruzzi.ca
Chef Dave Lamers and co-owner Rob D’Amico work with local farmers and growers to source products that boast both integrity and flavour and then incorporate these seasonal offerings into Abruzzi’s Italian-provenance-oriented menus. A superior wine list features plenty of exciting consignments. Windows that open to the street make the indoor to outdoor dining experience feel unified.

Amici Italian Restaurant
350 Dundas Street 519-439-8983 www.amicieatery.com
Chef Paul Krohn’s small and attractive Alto Adige-inspired trattoria located in the downtown hotel district serves traditional “rustic” Italian specialties with quality ingredients. The intimate dining room fills up quickly, so be sure to make a reservation. Small seasonal patio.

*Aroma Mediterranean Restaurant and Adega Lounge Wine Cellar
123 Richmond Street (at Piccadilly) 519-435-0616
Felipe Gomes’s Aroma evokes a strong Old World ambiance. The open courtyard dining room features a three-storey vaulted ceiling, creating a spacious yet cozy space. Menus feature signature specialties from all over the Mediterranean. There is always a selection of fresh fish.

 Ben Thanh Viet Thai Restaurant
57 York Street, 519-438-4888
This popular Viet-Thai restaurant boasts many meal-in-a-bowl specialties and vegetarian options at accessible prices. Chefs prepare your meal fresh a la minute with quality ingredients and authentic herbs and spices. The large dining room is an airy, relaxing and casual environment.

 Billy's Downtown Deli
113 Dundas Street 519-679-1970 www.billysdelirestaurant.ca
Jeff and Sandi Harvey’s Billy’s Deli on Dundas Street has been a popular downtown landmark for more than thirty years. For lunch, classic deli offerings like the quintessential Reuben and Montreal smoked meat sandwiches. There are always interesting daily blackboard specials designed to entice diners, and these offerings add seasonality to the extensive traditional deli menu. Interesting daily blackboard features. Billy’s has a stellar reputation for its seasonal pies. 

Black Trumpet
523 Richmond Street (South of Kent Street) 519- 850- 1500 www.blacktrumpet.ca
Chef Scott Wesseling has a modern-day take on international classics, drawing from local and seasonal ingredients to create his new menu offerings. The expanded lunch menu includes a couple of different burgers, one using bison and the other venison. The restaurant's elegant courtyard patio is on of London's gems.

Blackfriar's Restaurant
46 Blackfriars Street 519 667 4930
Blackfriars Bistro is a deliciously arty bistro with a cheerful persona, knowledgeable servers and a top-notch kitchen. The health conscious, creative and eclectic seasonal menus are handwritten by restaurateur Betty Heydon. This casual bistro located just west of the Blackfriar's Bridge also features innovative, seasonal blackboard specials daily and a superb Sunday brunch.

 Blu Duby
32 Covent Market Place 519- 433- 1414 www.bluduby.com
Chef combines comfort food classics with modern European, Asian and Mediterranean twists. This is comfort cuisine in upmarket surroundings with a nod to hip, but not a speck of pretension. Owners Joe and Cheryl Duby feature a well thought out wine list offering a variety of price points.

 Budapest Dining Room & Tavern
348 Dundas Street 519- 439- 3431 www.oo5.com/bpr
The Budapest is a local treasure with red velvet, unintended kitsch and old world charisma. Doyenne Marika Hayek has been delighting patrons with her risqué repartee and dependably great Hungarian specialities in this traditional old- world tavern setting for 56 years. Comfy street side patio. "Of course, you must try the schnitzel or the stuffed veal — the spätzle is also delicious —save room for the palacsinta."

Che Restobar
225 Dundas Street (at Clarence) 519-601-7999 www.cherestobar.ca
Marvin Rivas has designed an atmosphere that sends exactly the right message about Che: it is sexy and urbane, and casual and spontaneous, but it's personable, too, and the core commitment to authentic cuisine isn't blasé in the least. The menu blends tradition and ingenuity in true Latin American style.

*The Chinese Barbeque
994 Huron St; London 519 963-0375
The Chinese Barbeque (aka “Gee Gai Yun” – meaning “Our Family People”) is acknowledged as currently the number one Chinese Barbeque restaurant in the city. The cooking is informed by the Cantonese cuisine of Hong Kong, by way of Vietnam. This family-run business is the progeny of Quan Quyet Chow Ly and her sons Quan and John Ly. Keeping with “the nose-to-tail eating” philosophy and trend, this is the perfect restaurant for the true culinary adventurer to sample Chinese barbecue (char-siu) specialties. Hanging in the window near the entrance to the restaurant you will see whole pigs (sourced locally in Mt. Brydges) that have been coated with a signature honey and molasses marinade and roasted until the skin is crisp, glistening and golden brown. The food at The Chinese Barbecue has a fresh homemade quality with locally-sourced ingredients. No stale taro cake or premade, frozen Dim Sum here. The menu is expansive.

 The Church Key Bistro Pub
476 Richmond Street (across from The Grand Theatre) 519- 936- 0960 www.thechurchkey.ca
This is a top-notch cooking and Chef Michael Anglestad has a repertoire of flavours that are big, brash and rustic but thoroughly cosmopolitan. Pastry Chef Cliff Briden is also at the top of his game. Best of all owners Vanessa and Pete Willis’s haven’t overlooked its roots as a place for locals to meet and imbibe. An intimate outdoor courtyard borders the south side of the building.

 David's Bistro
432 Richmond Street (at Carling) 519- 667- 0535 www.davidsbistro.ca
David Chapman and Chef Elvis Drennan present a solid array of classic French favourites. The dishes are so virtuous, in such a French way it's almost impossible to believe you're not in France. The bistro with its tiny bar, vivacious red walls and black-checked tablecloths is a venerated downtown dining destination. There is a sensibly priced, extensive and ever-changing consignment wine selection and interesting VQA’s.

*Dragonfly Bistro
715 Richmond Street   519-432-2191
Donald and Nora Yuriann have an irresistible kitchen, a moderately priced menu, and service that is welcoming. If you are planning to visit for Indonesian Rijsttafel on Monday nights, be sure to make a reservation. This is a hidden gem in plain sight, on Richmond Row.
The Early Bird
355 Talbot Street 519-439-6483 www.theearlybird.ca
Gregg and Justin Wolfe’s Early Bird is King and Talbot’s red-hot, retro diner with casual farm-to-table cooking. The Early Bird has a quirky charm and a hotchpotch menu of updated retro diner classics and new generation comfort foods. Signature dishes include: the king-sized “turducken club” sandwich made with turkey, chicken and duck, perogies, and Montreal smoked meat that is made on site. Save room for the bacon-fried pickles. These are dishes with real soul. You can’t get much more hip-but-earthy than the Early Bird Diner. Check out the seasonal patio.

Fellini Koolini’s Italian Cuisini / The Runt Club
155 Albert Street, 519-642-2300
Fellini Koolini’s Italian Cuisini, and its sibling restaurant, The Runt Club, are located on a charming side street just off Richmond Row. Fellini Koolini’s is über-restaurateur Mike Smith’s tongue-in-cheek homage to the surreal Italian director. Favourites include a seemingly endless selection of highbrow/lowbrow creations: pastas, thin-crust pizza, steamed mussels, calamari, steaks, etc. Next door, The Runt Club is a typical “local``, offering Fellini’s menu.

 Five Fortune Culture Restaurant
368 Richmond Street 226-667-9873
Wen Bei Li's Chinese Five Fortune Culture Restaurant is located at the southeast corner of Richmond and King Street. This is not the formulaic Chinese restaurant serving Anglo-genres conceived by old-style Taishanese and rural Cantonese immigrants who adapted traditional Chinese recipes to suit local tastes and available ingredients. The cuisine as prepared by Jie Liang and interpreted by Wenbei is, "Pure Chinese" a combination of Yunnan, Sichuan and Guizhou influences. The five good fortunes are: wealth, health, longevity, love, and virtue. Try the congee.

Garlic's of London
481 Richmond Street (beside The Grand Theatre) 519- 432- 4092 www.garlicsoflondon.com
Proponents of farm-to-table cuisine, Owner Edo Pehji, Manager Emma Pratt, Chef Chad Stewart and their culinary team offer intelligent and ethically informed menu choices. Garlic’s combines all the elements of a perennial favourite - as delicious, affordable, top-of-the-line, rustic cooking using seasonal and high quality ingredients.

Gozen Bistro Sushi and Grill
219 Queens Ave. (at Clarence) 519- 858- 9998 www.gozenbistro.com
Jun Hwang’s Gozen has a menu of Japanese sushi and Korean specialties. Signatures include: sashimi, soft shell crab tempura;  bimbim bap the traditional dinner-in-a-bowl – with freshly– cooked crispy rice in the bottom of the stone pot served with julienned  vegetables and mung bean sprouts; and bulgogi wrap with marinated beef, rice and gochujang sauce.

Icarus Resto Bar
519 Richmond Street (near Dufferin Avenue)
Zack Agathos’s new open- kitchen places an emphasis on modern casual dining with both a Greek flavour and flare. The restaurant is in its fledgling days.

Idlewyld Inn
36 Grand Avenue
A local landmark since 1878, the Inn combines the elegance of a bygone era with all the modern amenities sophisticated travelers have come to expect. Chef creates a culinary experience that is both sophisticated and classic. The restaurant is a reflection of the casual elegance that the Idlewyld has built its reputation around.  Plaudits for the cozy ambience, innovative cuisine and artistry on each plate.  Jazz Nights.
(519) 432-5554

Kantina Café & Restaurant
349 Talbot Street 519- 672- 5862 www.kantina.ca
This is some of the most strikingly realized and highly characterised cutting-edge cuisine imbued with farm-to-table ideals around. Owner Miljan Karac and Chef Danijel “Dacha” Markovic reinterpret classic Balkan –inspired cooking with a fresh twist in their chic but casual downtown London restaurant. Chef takes pains to ensure his cuisine bears the marks of authenticity of the hands that made it. Kantina serves exceptionally good food, at fair prices. with intelligent and friendly service befitting the setting.

*The Korean Restaurant

170 Adelaide Street North, 519 642 7437
Lee Chul Wha’s Korean Restaurant serves delicious versions of bimim bap (bap meaning rice) and bulgogi. The restaurants at Adelaide Street and Hamilton Road seems to have more upscale aspirations and continues to garner great word-of-mouth in its second yearMeals are accompanied with banchan, a half a dozen or so complimentary plates of traditional “side dishes” to graze on before the meal or more traditionally to use as condiments. Banchan are placed in the middle of the table to be shared communally. Typically, banchan are served in small portions, (think tapas) and at the Korean House they are replenished during the meal at no extra charge.

La Casa Ristorante
117 King Street (across from Covent Garden Market) 519- 434-2272 lacasaristorante.com
Chef's menus are rooted in the authentic Italian tradition. All the classics of Italian culinary canon are on the virtuous menu —prepared from scratch with skill. Consistency and familiarity are the hallmarks of the La Casa culinary experience. Signature dishes like: risotto al salto, house-made angel hair pasta with sautéed shrimp and lobster tagliolini are masterworks.

London Ale House
288 Dundas Street (across from Delta Armouries Hotel) 519-204-2426
The Ale House has a huge selection of beers - local, from around the world, draught, bottled and ciders. Menu items are prepared in-house, from scratch - even the condiments, using beers and ciders with each of their menu items.

Marienbad Restaurant

122 Carling Street (at Talbot) 519- 679- 9940 www.marienbad.ca
For forty years the Marienbad has brought the European dining culture to downtown in a casual atmosphere. The kitchen evokes eastern and central Europe with its skill for that perfect marriage of sweet and sour time-honoured specialties. There is an exceptional steak tartare and a variety of signature schnitzels.  A black iron fence, flower boxes, and comfortable tables with festive umbrellas add charm to the inviting side walk patio.

 Massey's Fine Indian Cuisine
174 King Street (near Richmond) 519-672-2989 www.masseys.ca
Chef/owner of Patison Massey and his partner and spouse Anisha, seem to be always on hand. Chef shows his expertise with his dazzling way with spices bestowing and building flavors to great effect. A variety of vegetarian offerings and classic favourites like: smoky-spiced baingan patiala, everything tandoori, butter chicken, nann, and various exotic accompaniments.

Michael’s on-the-Thames
1 York Street (at the bridge) 519- 672- 0111 www.michaelonthethames.com  
For thirty years and counting, Michael’s on-the-Thames has been regarded as London’s ‘celebration destination’ and for good reason. Owner-operator Brian Stewart, general manager Joelle Lees, executive Chef Denis Clavette and their polished staff gives its patrons what they want, consistently. The restaurant has been smartly refurbished to create a renewed sense of comfort and well-being.

Milos' Craft Beer Emporium
This is London’s premier craft beer destination, owned and operated by renowned publican Milos Kral. Chef Matt Reijnen prepares menus that reflect their farm-to-table commitment and passion for everything local. Kral offers 23 micros on tap with excellent style variation. Craft beer enthusiasts have made this local landmark part of Ontario’s rich craft beer culture. Seasonal patio.

The Morrissey House
359 Dundas Street 519-204-9220 www.themorrisseyhouse.com
Publican Marc Serré’s Morrissey House with its unique selection of beers and innovative pub food is a welcoming, warm and cozy local. Chef Andrew Harris offers a menu that is comfortable and accessible but with a twist. Almost everything is mad in house from scratch. There is al fresco dining on their popular 60-seat patio.
Organic Works Bakery

222 Wellington Street, www.organicworksbakery
Peter Cuddy's Organic Works Bakery is a stylish café and certified organic and allergen-free bakery located in the heart of SoHo. Specializing in recipes made with organic, gluten-free, nut-free and vegan ingredients.

Raja Fine Indian Cuisine
428 Clarence St. (North of Dundas) 519-601-7252  www.rajafinedining.ca
The Raja serves fine Indian cuisine in refined and elegant surroundings by a knowledgeable, deferential and well-trained staff. The dining room has character and sophistication with its marble floors, deep red painted walls and white accents. 

Rock au Taco
355 Talbot Street 519-439-6483
The latest brain wave of the Wolfe brothers, Rock au Taco located next door to the Early Bird Diner is serving up delicious and authentic tacos and Mexican cuisine, ice cold cervezas, and smooth tequila. This is gourmet inspired street food and classic comfort-club grub.

The Root Cellar Organic Café
623 Dundas Street 519-719-7675
Community-focused, local, sustainable and responsible are the words used to describe the Root Cellar’s philosophy. Chef Dani Gruden-Murphy procures his ingredients from food grown and produced within a 45-minute radius of London. Breads and baking are crafted from Arva Flour Mill wheat. The Root Cellar will soon become London’s first co-operatively owned nanobrewery of its kind and will offer the beer on tap in the café.

The Springs
310 Springbank Drive; 519-657-1100
Chef Andrew Wolwowicz cooks at the full degree of his capability, with finely tuned instincts, skill, dedication, precision, creativity and passion. The Springs proudly use the finest locally grown products from farms specializing in sustainable agriculture, organic growing practices and ethically-raised livestock.

Tamarine by Quynh Nhi
118 Dundas Street 519- 601-8276 www.tamarine.ca
Chef’s Quyhn and Nhi’s modern Vietnamese menus are cleverly balanced, with a gentle rhythm between strong and subtle flavours uniting both colour and texture. The stylish dining room is so warm and embracing, it's hard not to think you're in a cocoon. http://ethicalgourmet.blogspot.ca/2014/09/tamarine-by-quynh-nhis-modern.html

T.G`s Addis Ababa
265 Dundas Street 519-4334222 www.tgsaddisababarestaurant.com
Dining at chef T.G. Haile`s Addis Ababa is characterized by the ritual of breaking injera (the traditional yeast-risen flatbread which is spongy in texture, crèpe-like in appearance with sourdough tanginess) and sharing food from a communal platter signifying the bonds of loyalty and friendship. For more than a decade, T.G.’s Addis Ababa has offered a tour de force from the Ethiopian culinary repertoire. The modest restaurant is tucked away off-the-beaten-track in an unassuming brick building the south side of Dundas Street near the corner of Burwell and Maitland.

 Thaifoon Restaurant
120 Dundas Street (East of Talbot) 519- 850- 1222 www.thaifoonrestaurant.com
Thaifoon sets itself apart with bang-on aromatic specialties from the Thai culinary canon and with their keen eye for detail and presentation. The minimalist room is sleek, with a sexy, upbeat soundtrack, rich dark woods and ultra-soft leather banquettes.

The Only on King
172 King Street, 519 936 2064 www.theonlyonking.ca
Possessing a superior grasp on the tenets of terroir and sustainability, chef/owner Paul Harding’s cooking is faultless. The Only on King, with its farm-to-table philosophy and culinary repertoire is a master class in modern comfort cooking. The daily changing menu is unique by London standards and something that few chefs/restaurateurs would be in a position to execute with the kind of success that Harding has achieved.

The River Room Café and Private Dining
Museum London, Ridout Street N. 519 850 2287 www.northmoore.ca/theriverroom/
Panoramic views and the tailored simplicity and elegance of the River Room make it breathtaking.  Jess Jazey-Spoelstra’s kitchen has a deserved reputation for the quality of the ingredients and the knowledgeable and expressive exuberance of the preparations. Open Tues.–Fri., from 11 am. to 4 pm. and Sunday for Brunch.

The Tasting Room
383 Richmond Street 519- 438- 6262 www.thetastingroom.ca
Menus are a veritable hit parade of current trends and updated classics. Lively tapas bars were the inspiration for this restaurant for this popular hotspot. Menus are a mixture of up-to-the-minute trends and updated classics. Small plates are the main focus and the list is extensive. Wine tasting flights are divided into four, 2-ounce glasses of red or white.

True Taco Authentic Comedor Latino
789 Dundas Street 519 433 0909 www.truetaco.com
Luis Rivas and Elsa Garcia and family continue to wow guests by providing flavour and ambiance at their new and much larger restaurant. The kitchen offers up a spectacular all-day breakfast of huevos rancheros: sunny-side up eggs with homemade sauce and locally sourced beans and tortillas. Handmade pupusas are a specialty and are mad with rice or corn flour tortillas. Central American offerings include, burritos, tacquitos, quesadillas, enchiladas and corn-husk wrapped pork and corn meal tamales.

Unique Food Attitudes
697 Dundas Street 519 649 2225
Barbara Czyz`s  chic storefront bistro in the Old East Village has been an instant success due to its modern European sensibility, changing chalkboard menu offerings, fabulous food, and warm and attentive vibe. House specialties include Goulash and potato pancakes, krokiety (crepes) and red borsch made from beets, bigos (sauerkraut-mushroom-meat stew), slow cooked cabbage rolls and tender peirogi with a variety of sweet and savoury fillings.

Waldo's on King Bistro and Wine Bar
130 King Street (Covent Garden Market) 519 433 6161 www.waldos.on.ca
Mark Kitching’s kitchen brigade offer definitive bistro-style selections. There's a comforting trajectory with this kind of reliable fare, dependably good appetizers to a fresh spin on classic entrée favourites. This is where you will find the best “organic” burger and Caesar salad in town. Great outdoor patio.

Willie's Café
731 Wellington St; London 519 433 9027 www.williescafe.on.ca
Willie’s Café has been a revered London lunch hot-spot for several decades. Proprietor Ian Kennard and Cindy Koivu possess a solid work ethic and interact in the dining room like a clever and well-choreographed stage production. Chef Gail Raines is a culinary dynamo who combines efficient professionalism with friendly repartee in the small open kitchen. Menu items include over a dozen different sandwiches and wraps, along with a variety of soups, salads and other house specialties. Everything is made in-house and from scratch.