Joe Duby is a natural-born raconteur and a well-known restaurant professional with many years of experience and a large following of admirers. Many downtown denizens and diners tripped the light fantastic with Duby for the eight years he managed Waldo’s on King.
Cheryl Duby is cofounder and President of Bigger Solutions Inc and President of International Automotive Solution. Cheryl is a legendary party-giver among the restaurant glitterati and a much admired and well-respected businessperson in her own right. The recently married couple are the co-owners and face of Blu Duby.
Together the Dubys hand-picked a team of dynamic hospitality professionals known for their exemplary customer service skills, clever repartee, and wit. Daytime manager Mathew Mckenzie, the redoubtable Kim Miller, William McKillop, Ray Nernberg, Hannah Kenwell and Toni Mansilla make up the winning team. Part of Joe’s skill has been to hire the right mix of critical talent.
Blu Duby, which opened in mid-July in the revitalized interior of a former warehouse (previous premises of Rob Taylor’s Braise Food and Wine) and adjacent to the chic boutique hotel project, Metro, in downtown London, has access off both Covent Market Lane and Dundas Street.
Braise’s former visage has been wiped clean. The new slate has contemporary lighting fixtures, new tables and chairs, banquettes, and a very different colour scheme. The Dubys bought back most of the kitchen equipment at auction. The contemporary and comfortable black chairs and tables provide contrast to the reclaimed exposed brick walls, solid maple hardwood flooring, fourteen-foot ceilings, and a structurally solid post-and-beam construction. The brick walls and other “sharkskin” coloured accents make a perfect backdrop for Artist Greg Benz’s modern abstract paintings. Sade and other great tunes playing in the background add a tranquil but upbeat ambience.
To fill the 126-seat restaurant, the Dubys and their staff are working to build a diverse clientele by combining an accessible menu and wine list with a casual atmosphere. The restaurant sports modern sophistication with its stylish décor, combined with an innovative approach to family-friendly comfort food and artful cuisine.
The Dubys also focus on the corporate and private dining sector of the business. Three separate areas can be easily transformed into private dining rooms to accommodate parties of 14 to 22 guests. The restaurant can also seat from 44 to 65 people in the banquet facility of Metro’s indoor courtyard, which features a stunning 35-foot-high sky-lit atrium.
Casual bistro-style selections and tantalizing vegetarian choices are on offer, as well as many old favourites that have been updated and reimagined by uber-Chef Alicia Hartley (formerly of Jose’s Noodle Factory in Windsor, The Tasting Room, and The Onyx). The dynamic chef team also includes the talented Phil Kirby.
Hartley is a native of Guyana, the home of classic fusion cuisine, and although she immigrated to Canada at thirteen, it informs her cooking. Hartley’s culinary approach is both instinctual and thoughtful. She is a proponent of combining varieties of ingredients from various cuisines and regions with contemporary ideas. Hartley is known to ramp up the spice quotient, which she does to great effect. She credits the Asian influence in her cooking repertoire to her mother, who is part Chinese. Try her Thai Red Curry Soup and her Thai Glass Noodles with crispy tofu, candied pecans, lime and chili sauce.
If you are feeling adventurous, be sure to order the melt-in-your-mouth prosciutto-wrapped fresh sardines and chunky tomato and fennel concasse — it’s aces.
The chefs prepare most everything in-house from scratch, including baking their own bread. A few desserts are purchased from Nicole Arroyas’ Petit Paris. However, the delicious chai tea crème brûlée and other desserts are made in-house.
The menu combines international classics with modern European, Asian and Mediterranean twists, and features such items as Miso Salmon, Polenta with Sundried Tomatoes and Chorizo Sausage, Mac and Cheese with Truffle Oil, and an AAA Alberta Entrecote. The restaurant’s cooking repertoire keeps evolving, and the presentation is both stylish and simple. With a selection of over 22 appetizers and vegetarian options to choose from, diners are certain to find something to enjoy.
The restaurant features a super diverse wine list offering 24 wines at a variety of price points but with half the list under $10 a glass. The tempting list features wines from both mainstream regions as well as off the beaten path.
Friday night the restaurant draws a bar crowd. When Nernberg is behind the bar, it’s like watching a bad (but amusing) pantomime with slapstick turns and unintentional juggling performances. Speaking of theatrical performances, an interesting collection of framed vaudevillian photographs graces the walls in the bar and adjoining private room, which pay homage to Joe’s showbiz lineage. Joe’s father, Ralph, owned and operated the Coral Reef Inn (now the Aux Saubles Inn) in Grand Bend, where Joe got his initial taste of the business — that and from washing dishes at The Keg.
Blu Duby is without a doubt an up-and-comer. The dinner business is strong and it will inevitably become a lunch hot spot. Blu Duby is slated to become a true downtown institution. Walk-in business is encouraged, and the star attractions are the owners and the staff. Throw in some delicious Lobster Tacos, Caribbean Jerk Tempeh, and Hartley’s Seafood Cakes, and Bob’s your uncle.
32 Covent Market Place or 125 Dundas St., London
Open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week.
Bryan Lavery is eatdrink magazine’s Writer at Large and Contributing Editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.