BY BRYAN LAVERY
The Ontario Liberal government’s recent announcement of a plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour — a 32% hike — in the next 18 months has created grave concerns for many small business owners, particularly in the labour-intensive hospitality industry. A government-commissioned report made 173 recommendations aimed at creating better workplaces with decent working conditions. But the average Ontario restaurant operator exists on a pre-tax profit margin of 3.4% of sales, which according to Statscan is the lowest in Canada.
The restaurant business is a challenging way of life, and even the most dedicated and talented professionals are often ill-equipped to withstand dramatic turns in the economy. It takes more than tenacious determination and open-minded optimism to succeed in this field, one known for its high turnover and burn-out rate. The new laws will affect how restaurants are staffed and shifts are scheduled. Some pundits suggest the wage hike will require menu prices to increase by 20%.
London Training Centre’s Culinary Pre-Apprenticeship students start 8-week placements with restaurants and event venues the first week of July. The Local Food Skills Program is growing food ecologically again this year on a new property west of London. The program continues throughout the summer and fall with a 3-week program every month. LTC is currently working on a September schedule for cooking classes and culinary fundamentals such as bread baking, charcuterie, curing/smoking etc. There will be evening and weekend class options. londontraining.on.ca
The Growing Chefs! Ontario team is excited to welcome you into their new Growing Chefs Headquarters. They have worked hard to transform the former Auberge du Petit Prince restaurant into an innovative Food Education Centre. It is a venue where Londoners, young and old, can get excited about growing, cooking, sharing, and celebrating delicious healthy food together. growingchefsontario.ca
David’s Bistro, elegantly tucked into a fine Richmond Street heritage building and one of downtown London’s culinary landmarks, is closing from July 1 to August 15 to upgrade the building after a fire caused smoke and water damage in the adjacent premises. davidsbistro.ca
Chef Angela Murphy of Restaurant Ninety One at Windermere Manor will launch new summer menus on July 12. The staff at Windermere Manor will be marching in the Pride parade on July 30th and handing out flyers for a “Pride On” event. In order to extend Pride London Festival celebrations there will be a semi-formal gala event at Windermere Manor on August 4, open to the public. Tickets are $20 until July 1, increasing to $25, then $30 at the door. restaurantninetyone.ca
North Moore Catering/River Room owner/proprietor Jess Jazey-Spoelstra and chef Andrew Wolwowicz’s new venture, Craft Farmacy, is now slated to open in early September at 449 Wharncliffe Road South. It will feature local craft beer, an oyster bar, rustic-style food, sharing plates, great wines and fabulous house cocktails. Tyler Weatherall is the new sous chef at the River Room. northmoore.ca/theriverroom/
The Wolfe brothers of Wolfe of Wortley and The Early Bird plan to open Mexican-inspired Los Lobos in the former Talbot St. Whisky House space in early August. The menu will show their love for tacos and other Mexican classics, with the focus at the bar being on tequila, mezcal and bourbon.
Garlic’s of London owner Edo Pehilj and manager Emma Pratt are supporters of farm-to-table cuisine, and ensure their carefully chosen team offers intelligent and ethically-informed menu selections. Chef Carla Cooper features top-of-the-line, rustic cooking using quality seasonal ingredients. garlicsoflondon.com
The Squire Pub and Grill, located in the Art Deco former bank building at Dundas and Talbot, is a welcoming, American-style pub and grill. It features good food and great deals through the week. It’s in close proximity to Covent Garden Market and perfect for before and after events at Budweiser Gardens — or to grab a pint and a snack. Pub Stumpers Trivia League begins in September. Open for lunch, dinner and late nights daily. www.squirepubandgrill.ca
The Root Cellar offers from-scratch seasonal menus, a funky reclaimed interior, and a friendly, knowledgeable staff in Old East Village. They possess a strong commitment to sourcing ingredients from the local organic farming community through their partners at On The Move Organics. Recently opened is a second-floor, 55-seat, renovated special events space, Taproot. Hosting everything from concerts and workshops to board meetings and private dinners, Taproot might just be the fresh event space you’re looking for. rootcellarorganic.ca
SO INVITING is the new Chinese bakery across from the Farmers’ Market at Western Fair, offering a variety of savoury hand-made dumplings (pot stickers) and a selection of not-too-sweet baking. The savoury bean paste cookies are a big hit. There are plenty of fresh and delicious goodness on the shelves and in the freezer for take away.
The London Food Truck Association has turned blocks of downtown into a food truck pod. Bifana Boys (Portuguese food), COCOville (Caribbean & Cuban), Goodah Gastrotruck (gourmet grilled cheese), Donut Diva (mini-doughnuts), Smokestacks (smoked brisket & pulled pork), MegaCone Creamery (ice cream) and Roli Poli (hand-rolled ice cream) park in specific blocks on different days: Tuesdays at Talbot & Queens, Wednesdays at Richmond & Queens, Thursdays at King & Wellington, and Fridays at Queens & Wellington. On Sundays, look for food trucks at Springbank Park from noon–5pm across from the splash pad.
The McVegan’s food truck, owned by Globally Local, focusses on vegan options at festivals. Try the McInnes Burger — a take on the Big Mac — or their BBQ sandwich made from jackfruit and served with creamy coleslaw. One of our favourite food trailers is the organic, Mexican-inspired ivanopoblano on Oxford St. east of Quebec St.
Culinary entrepreneur Dave Cook has opened The Pickle Social Club — a performance and event venue — at 874 Dundas St., directly across from the Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market at Western Fair. The space is for rent on a short-term basis, from a few hours to a few days in a row, for purposes such as a baby shower, a photo shoot, a work retreat, a pop-up retail shop, or more. picklesocialclub.com
Ian Kennard’s Willie’s Catering & Take-out recently joined businesses like Dave Cook’s Fire Roasted Coffee, Heather Pirsky’s Naturally Vegan, Kim Banma’s gluten-free bakery Urban Oven, David Glen’s Glen Farms Herbs & Preserves and The Village Table (non-profit Meals on Wheels) at the London Food Incubator. Joining these start-ups is Yam Gurung of Momo’s at the Market, who is opening a satellite location soon. Anchoring the space is the Old East Village Grocer, an independent grocery store offering healthy and affordable food products while doubling as a retail training space for people with disabilities.
The Bicycle Café opened at 355 Clarence St. near King. Owner Ben Cowie is serving Rosso Coffee, a small coffee roaster in Calgary that works directly with growers to create new and exciting taste profiles. The café part of the business is upfront of the shop and an espresso machine is slated to arrive from Italy soon. Out back a bicycle shop focusses on sales and service for urban cycling. londonbicyclecafe.com
In downtown London, Five Fortune Culture Restaurant at the corner of Dundas and Richmond is part of the groundswell of restaurants offering an authentic dining experience. This is not the typical Chinese-Canadian restaurant serving Anglo-genres conceived by old-style Cantonese immigrants who adapted traditional recipes to suit local tastes and available ingredients. The cuisine as prepared by owner Jie Liang and Wenbei is “Pure Chinese” Yunnan with Sichuan and Guizhou influences.
Che Restobar is taking a summer siesta and is closed for regular dining. It will be available for private events and catering. Check out Facebook and Twitter for updates. Visit Che Restobar at Sunfest in Victoria Park from July 6–9.
Tea sommelier and nutritionist Michelle Pierce Hamilton and her business partner Yixing Tang opened The Tea Lounge in a small charming house on Piccadilly Street east of Richmond. They recently launched a menu of cold drinks, iced teas and vegan-friendly lattes. Matcha, London Fog and cinnamon-orange spiced tea lattes are available hot or iced. There is afternoon tea service one Sunday per month. Book a sitting at the monthly Tea Flight Nights to experience a comparative tasting. A small in-house scratch menu and baked goods and healthful snacks from Petit Paris Crêperie & Pâtisserie, Boombox Bakeshop and Bliss Specialty Foods add to the experience. tealoungelondon.com
Idlewyld Inn & Spa’s features a locally-inspired menu of contemporary and traditional favourites and decadent desserts, complemented by a selection of award-winning wines, and draughts and ales on tap. Enjoy some al fresco dining on the gracious front porch, or escape to Idlewyld’s hidden garden courtyard. Back by popular demand, Chef Trevor Stephens is master of the grill. Summer BBQ nights are held Wednesdays & Thursdays. idlewyld.com
The Church Key Bistro-Pub follows in the British-inspired tradition of contemporary food executed with panache and attention to detail. Chef Michael Anglestad’s from-scratch kitchen features seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. Owners Peter and Vanessa Willis recently celebrated the eighth anniversary of this downtown landmark that features one of London’s top patio dining experiences. thechurchkey.ca
Wanting to sharpen your kitchen skills, or just your knives? For the first time in its 34-year history Stratford Chefs School is offering spring and summer cooking classes and learning experiences for the dedicated home cook. There is something for all skill levels, whether you want to cook the perfect burger or ferment vegetables. www.smore.com/v8qr5-open-kitchen-classes?ref=email
The Mill Stone Restaurant & Bar features a seasonal menu with small plates of globally-inspired flavours and locally-sourced ingredients that focus on light and healthy fare. Be sure to try the signature back ribs from Perth Pork Products Ltd. The restaurant features cocktails on tap and in bottles, homemade bitters, locally-brewed beer on tap, and a varied bottle list. There is a focus on Canadian wines. There is also a small but charming street-side patio. themillstone.ca
SAV Eatery + Smokehouse is a “proper Southern diner smokehouse” with 70 seats on the main floor and additional seating for events and private dining on the lower level. It is authentic Lowcountry cuisine, associated with South Carolina and the Georgia coast. The menu features smoked foods and traditional Savannah and Charleston fare, like Shrimp & Grits. Everything from the ribs and BBQ sauces to the breads and buns is made in-house. Pork is sourced from local Tamworth herds and the butchery is done by chef/owner Angie Mohr. The custom-built smoker is completely wood-fired and can hold 350 pounds of meat at a time. Expected opening in July.
An era comes to an end! Stratford will lose one of its iconic dining landmarks at the close of this year’s Stratford Festival. Owner Jim Morris is retiring and Rundles will be closing for good in September. Rundles made its name with high-end contemporary French cuisine, artfully plated, with a worldly influence. The restaurant is synonymous with classicism and a refined level of wine sophistication. Neil Baxter has been chef de cuisine at Rundles since 1981. The restaurant will have its last dinner service on September 23. rundlesrestaurant.com
Chef Loreena Miller has unveiled a rustic-French summer menu at Revival House. The menu is divided into Petits Plats, Fromage, Salades Repas (meal size salads), Sandwiches, Pour Partager (dishes for sharing), and Grand Plats (mains). Highlights include Sarde in Saor sweet and sour marinated sardines, a classic French Onion Soup, a new vegetarian Eggplant Involtini, Potato Gnocchi, Chicken Supreme and Salmon Succotash (with summer squash, tarragon, white wine and lemon cream). revival.house
Mercer Kitchen/Beer Hall/Hotel is expanding by rebranding the Baden location as Mercer Mercato, bringing the quality and value that it has come to stand for to a whole new market, and featuring an exciting restaurant menu as well as an extensive list of prepared meals to take home.
Windsor Hospitality, parent company to both Mercer and The Prune, is adding Stratford’s iconic York Street Kitchen to its family of restaurants. Everyone’s favourite boutique restaurant, York Street Kitchen, on Erie Street, is known for creative sandwiches, innovative salads and sides, and homemade desserts. Owner/founder Susie Palach, who celebrates nearly three decades in business, is staying on to ensure the magic shines brighter than ever with the support of Windsor Hospitality’s dynamic team.