The Buzz: May/June 2016

Written by The Editors


Black George, like its predecessor Kantina, has been one of those independent businesses that thrive on creativity, dedication and commitment enhanced by well-honed and sophisticated culinary points of view. Owner Miljan Karac has announced that the establishment will close on May 14. “The decision to do so was not an easy as a lot of love and effort has been put into making this place a great restaurant. As one door closes, another one opens and sometime soon, an eclectic establishment will open in this space,” said Karac.

Owners Pete and Vanessa Willis of The Church Key follow the British custom of the gastro pub by specializing in traditional food done with gourmet flair and offer an impressive selection of craft beers and great wines. Pete, a hospitality industry stalwart who many Londoners will remember for his long stints at the Oxbox, The Nac, Kiplings and Honest Lawyer, is celebrating 40 years as a bartender and his 60th birthday on May 8. Congratulations Pete!

Wich is Wich will be expanding their hours to include dinner options, Wednesday through Saturday. Chef Josh Sawyer will be launching a new menu in May. Proven favourites will remain, but watch for a few surprises. The Wich is Wich pop up shop at Budweiser Gardens is a huge success and will continue through 2016-17 season.

Felipe Gomes’s Aroma Restaurant combines Old World ambiance with high technology. Felipe’s experiential offerings include amenities and facilities for cooking classes, corporate team-building exercises, and a private conference room for up to 30. An on-site bakery provides croissants, cakes & French pastries and Portuguese-style custard tarts, homage to Gomes’ heritage. Aroma Restaurant is celebrating their 10th Anniversary.

Windermere Manor’s refurbished Restaurant Ninety One relaunched in late April. Restaurant chef Angela Murphy and banquet chef Josh Blackwell and their culinary team will build on a sustainable culinary philosophy and farm-to-table sensibility that showcase a selection of old favourites, signature ingredients, and innovative taste experiences that change to take advantage of the seasons using elements from their kitchen gardens and ingredients from local purveyors. Open daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner & Sunday brunch. There is plenty of free parking. Reservations are recommended and private dining rooms can be arranged upon request. 519-858-1391 x20430

Yoda Olinyk and Mike Fish’s Glassroots will be taking the concept of “local” to a new level, sourcing everything from as close to home as possible, including the food, everything behind the bar, décor, art, music, fixtures and, of course, the staff. With a newly renovated and intimate dining room, Glassroots will be a hub for healthy food culture, and a haven for wine lovers. It will mix local, homemade food, with a warm and friendly bar and an unparalleled dining experience. There will be healthy food like you’ve never seen before, and the city’s only all-Canadian wine list. Mike Fish is a sommelier, Canadian wine scholar and cocktail guru. The cocktails will be fresh, seasonal and a spin on the classics. Yoda Olinyk is a Red Seal Chef, certified in Plant Based Nutrition and the brains behind Yoda’s Kitchen, of St. Thomas. Yoda brings her reputation as “the healthy chef” and will create innovative, sometimes whimsical, tasty creations. The restaurant is expected to open mid-May for full service dinners Wednesday to Sunday. Glassroots will feature a Sunday brunch and a healthy, vegan, take-away lunch throughout the week. The restaurant will also be available for wine workshops, tasting events, fundraisers and more.

At The River Room Café, Chef Jeff Fortner and Jess Jazey-Spoelstra are launching a new spring/summer menu that will incorporate some new cool ideas. The stunning views and the tailored elegance of The River Room Café and Private Catering make it a downtown culinary hotspot for lunch or Sunday brunch. Downstairs at the Rhino Lounge Bakery and Coffee Shoppe, situated at the front of Museum London, is now serving made-to-order sandwiches on pastry chef Michele Lenhardt’s daily bread (flavours change). This summer the café will also feature homemade ice cream with hand-made churro bowls and doughnut cones. Don’t forget about Lenhardt’s delicious cronuts on Thursdays.

Jazey-Spoelstra’s new North Moore Catering venue on Wharncliffe Road is open for events for up to 35 guests, until the city approves the zoning change to 135.

Hazal Mahmood has opened Kitchen Istanbul, and is serving up Turkish specialities in the premises at 346 Richmond Street (more recently occupied by the former Curry Garden). This handsome but simple counter-service eatery offers eat-in and takeaway Turkish fare. Mahmood prepares a rotating menu featuring classics like kuru fasulye, dolma, kebabs, kisir, imam, pide (pizza) and sigara. This is where you will find authentic Turkish coffee.

Stratford Chefs School alumnus chef Dani Murphy has recently joined the culinary team at Blu Duby.

After 14 years on Richmond Row, The Station Keg is relocating to Masonville Place later this year. The steakhouse chain that has had a presence in downtown London since 1973 will be moving out of the historic rail station site later this year to become a tenant in the newly renovated space left behind when the Sears Canada store closed two years ago.

Toboggan Brewing Company is the idea of London restaurateur Mike Smith, owner of the venerable Joe Kool’s and Fellini Koolini’s. Last year Smith installed a state of the art brewery in the basement and enlisted the help of experienced brewing masters to launch a line of craft beers to serve his own establishments and the local market. The 519 Kitchen runs across the back of the room, capped by the curled end of large woodwork evoking a toboggan on the ceiling. The open kitchen allows visitors to see the staff in action, the large wood-burning oven, and a large BBQ smoker. Chef Mike Smith (same name, different person) cooks up Neapolitan-style pizzas and pub fare like street-style tacos, charcuterie and mussels and frites. A store at the entrance offers Toboggan’s products.

Covent Garden Market’s outdoor farmers’ market opens for the season on Saturday May 7. A number of new vendors are joining the popular stalwarts who are returning.

JJ’s Breakfast, Burgers and Beyond is opening in the space previously occupied by Amici restaurant at Dundas and Waterloo.

Plant Matter Kitchen (PMK) opened at 162 Wortley Road in early April. PMK has a whole food, plant-based focus, creating vegan fusion meals by blending global flavours with a local conscience. It serves great organic plant based meals, smoothies and Patrick’s Beans coffee from 7am to 4 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Justin and Gregg Wolfe of The Early Bird diner and Rock au Taco are putting the finishing touches on their project in Wortley Village and are expected to open shortly. The Wolfe of Wortley will be a comfortable 20-seat restaurant with a 14-seat patio. Wolfe on Wortley will be open evenings only, the menu will feature oysters, charcuterie, house made pastas and other farm fresh offerings made from scratch.

Community-focused, local, organic, sustainable and accountable are the words used to describe The Root Cellar’s philosophy. With an emphasis on “from scratch” seasonal menus, the culinary team procures ingredients from local organic farmers for this culinary collective and the London Brewing Co-Operative, London’s first co-operatively owned nanobrewery. We love the locally-sourced sausages and locally-sourced sausages and water buffalo burgers.

True Taco continues to wow diehard taco lovers by providing authentic Mexican and El Salvadorian cuisine. Tacos and pupusas are house specialties. Burritos, taquitos, quesadillas, enchiladas and tamales are also on offer. The standout is the chicken Milanesa. Also, visit the True Taco stall Saturdays at the Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market at Western Fair.

The Village Meat Shop is pleased to announce that they have partnered with a new farm: Little Sisters Chicken in Parkhill, to bring local, pastured, non-GMO fed, antibiotic-free chicken to London at the Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market at Western Fair. The network of local farms continues to grow for the Village Meat Shop as they work to fulfill their mission of finding great local, natural meats for London families.

The London Beer and BBQ Show presented by Clubhouse LaGrille is back (June 17-19), showcasing breweries from across southwestern Ontario and offering outstanding BBQ prepared by a variety of grill masters from local and area restaurants. Sample over 100 beverages: spirits, coolers, wine beverages and beers from Ontario’s established culture of craft beers. Savour sumptuous barbecue by local grillers everything from pork ribs and pulled pork to brisket and chicken. Participate in a variety of sports, cooking demos and activities running throughout the weekend. New this year, the Beer and BBQ Show has moved across the road to a bigger and better location, the Metroland Media Agriplex. Half indoor and half outdoor, the show will also feature a special tailgate toss tournament, a new demonstration stage, and a new Wine Garden for those looking for a break from the brews, and a new demonstration stage.

Anderson Craft Ales is a new family-owned operation headed by Gavin Anderson, who started brewing his own craft beer a decade ago. Anderson became a brew master at Les Brasseurs de Petite Sault craft brewery in Edmundston, N.B. The brewery in Old East Village will focus on top-quality, hop-based ales, and will have a retail outlet offering cans, kegs and growlers and a tap room that will sell beer by the glass. Anderson is refurbishing a former industrial building at 1030 Elias St. and should begin producing beer this summer. The building also will be set up for tours and community events.

The 765 Old East Bar & Grill, formerly Town and Country Tavern, has reopened under the management of the folks who operate the Grinning Gator on Richmond Street. The club has modernized décor, new signage and an enhanced food menu.

Culinary innovator and food entrepreneur Dave Cook continues to renovate the former Merv’s Variety at 874 Dundas Street. The revamped premises will be home to a restaurant, patio, craft beer pub and Fire Roasted Coffee offering. Cook is also establishing a food incubator in the 14,000-square-foot Somerville Building at 630 Dundas St. He is developing a shared space where culinary entrepreneurs can set up and grow, in much the same way vendors can get their start at his Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market at Western Fair. In the first stage of this project Cook is creating space for small businesses incubation and food start-ups, a Fire Roasted Coffee café and roastery, and a grocery store. The grocery store is a joint initiative with ATN Access. This project was prompted by the need for a new roastery for Fire Roasted Coffee, which has outgrown its home at the Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market at Western Fair. The Somerville Building will have a large patio facing Dundas Street with food and drink offerings available.

Masonville Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market has evolved into a best-in-class trove of over 40 local farmers, artisans and food producers offering high-quality seasonal ingredients and products. It is organized by the Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market at Western Fair. Fridays 8 am–2 pm, May 20–Thanksgiving. Weather permitting.

Executive Chef and Hospitality Management Consultant Alfred Estephan, who previously worked at Sunningdale Golf and Country Club, Idlewyld Inn and Paramount Foods, is opening a new bistro/bar/café/ in the space occupied by Organic Works Cafe, on Wellington Road just south of York Street. Ashton Gillespie will be joining him in the kitchen. Revive Kitchen is expected to open in late May or early June and will include a dining room, café, fresh juice/smoothie bar and a retail area that will continue to sell Organic Works products. Estephan tells us that he is planning to have Revive Kitchen open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.

Organic Works Bakery operated by Peter Cuddy continues to work out of the building in the underground kitchen. Putting the bakery underground was more good fortune than scientific research. The bakery is practically hermetically sealed and when combined with seven tons of air forced through the room it makes an excellent environment for leavening breads. Cuddy continues to build the reputation of Organic Works Bakery with everyday favourites like Nanaimo bars and sugar-free scones, seasonal treats like tarts and fruit pies, made-to-order cakes and cookies and more. Your taste buds and tummies will be thrilled with the gluten-free, nut-free, vegan bakery treats.

Wally’s Coffee is becoming a local hub in the SoHo neighbourhood, located at The Victoria Professional Centre at 111 Waterloo Street. The Rains family took over the former Pause Café last spring and remodelled the premises. The menu includes panini, sandwiches, soups and salads and is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday for breakfast and lunch.

Perth County Slow Food Market takes it outdoors starting Sunday, May 1st. Listen to the music while you shop for fresh made bread, quiche, tarts and sweet treats, locally grown meats, veggies and cheese in Stratford’s Market Square from 10 am–2 pm Sundays until Thanksgiving. Parking is free on Sunday.

Come to the wild side on Savour Stratford Foraging Treks as seasoned forager Peter Blush, of Puck’s Plenty, leads you on a trek along beautiful forest trails in search of wild edibles. Take away Peter’s favourite recipes to showcase your fresh picks. Information and tickets at Puck’s Plenty offers foraging tours throughout the year as well as selected dates for foraging and feasting. These popular tours sell out quickly.

The recently relaunched Mercer Hall has changed its name to Mercer Kitchen, Beer Hall, Hotel. With fifteen draft lines, Stratford’s only cask engine, and over 100 bottles including international award-winners, and hard to find one-offs, Mercer bills itself as a one-stop location to explore the world of craft beer. From heritage pork to line-caught West coast seafood they support farmers, fishermen and artisans in Perth County and across Canada. Chef Ryan O’Donnell’s energetic menu is perfect for the lively, casual atmosphere. Comfortable, cosmopolitan guest rooms are upstairs.

Keystone Alley Cafe is re-opening in May under new ownership. There will be a fresh new staff including the dynamic duo of executive chef Cortney Zettler and sous chef Tina Logassi. The pair have designed a new menu full of fresh seasonal and local foods and are looking forward to showcasing their creations. Be sure to check out the Blackboard menu for the chef’s specials or take a seat in the restaurant’s unique outdoor alley to enjoy the smells coming off of their BBQ!

Hog Wild Week in Stratford! Come celebrate pork in Stratford June 20-26. From the Bacon & Ale Trail, tasting delicious pork and beer inspired treats, to visiting selected restaurants and pubs that are creating special menus, pork events and tastings devoted to pork … and bacon, too! Stratford is also home to the Ontario Pork Congress, June 22–23. In fact, the whole town is going hog-wild — offering innovative menus and inspired dishes featuring local pork.

Stratford Blues and Rib Fest, June 24–26. Free live music at Veterans Drive Band Shell under a canopy of trees in the park, award-winning professional rib trucks and other food vendors, licensed beverages, professional roller derby bouts low and full contact games, Blues Cruises on the Avon River, Whole Hog BBQ Demo, Weekend Warrior Amateur Open BBQ Competition, horse drawn downtown carriage rides, talented artisans and unique craft merchants, musician’s workshop tent, motorcycle display, vintage tractor display, classic car meet and park and many other activities. This outdoor family-friendly gathering is in support of The Huron-Perth Centre for Children and Youth, The Stratford Kinsmen Club, and area Girl Guides/Boy Scouts.

World Festival of Children’s Theatre June 5-14 is in its 14th year and is being held in Stratford, the first time in North America! Performances by children, for children from 19 nations. Each performance is no more than one hour. Folk tales, original work, classic stories — a wide variety of performances under the theme “My World, Our Planet”

Junction 56 won a bronze medal for vodka at the American Distillery Institute in San Diego in April. Public tours are offered every Saturday at 1:00 pm.

Stratford Chefs School moves to new offices at 192 Ontario St, Stratford. Info at or 519-271-1414.

The relaxed osteria-style restaurant Monforte on Wellington — known for its small plates, each inspired by a Monforte cheese — is a place where live music and community happens. The osteria welcomes chefs Tyler Cormier and Jimbo Jones, new Stratford Chefs School grads, to the kitchen. The Monforte Home Farm Store is located at the first concession after Shakespeare on the southwest corner. The store is open from May 1 to October 30. In addition to Monforte cheeses, the Store sells Bauman Apiaries crackers (produced with David E.M. Martin flours) apple butter, summer sausage, preserves, handmade items and more. 2409 Line 34, Perth East, ON

Stratford’s newest home for quality live music, dining and events continues to play host to many touring and Canadian artists throughout the spring/summer season. Chef Byron Hallett has assembled a kitchen team excited about creating and serving food that expresses the depth of Perth County’s food culture with Stratford’s sense of drama — favourites re-imagined, traditions reinvented, memories reinterpreted — at Revival House. Upstairs, The Chapel features an 80-seat gastro pub and a VIP lounge called Confessions. In season, Revival House features a patio that backs onto Brunswick Street. 70 Brunswick Street

Stringbone presents a “LIVE at Revival House” dinner/concert series, offering dinner/concerts, complete overnight packages and limited concert-only tickets.

The Mill Stone Restaurant is the new kid on the block in Stratford with a diverse, seasonally-inspired menu using locally sourced ingredients. Chef Chris Powell was born in Qatar in the Middle East, raised in Wales, and received his culinary training in England. With nearly two decades in the industry in the U.K., Spain and Canada, his repertoire includes pastry work and Modern European cuisine. There is a refined wine list and hand crafted cocktails. 30 Ontario Street.

Regional Notes
The King Edward in Ilderton celebrated an anniversary on April 28. “We installed our first cask hand-pump ten years ago,” reports owner Rich Hunter, “returning real-ale to the London area after a lengthy dearth. In 2011 we replaced that pump with one of the most advanced systems of its kind, designed to maintain the pour temperature, which is a common issue with hand-pumped ale. After 10 years, we have created such a solid real-ale fan base, many of them don’t ask ‘who’s ale’ or ‘what style’ we are pouring on that day; they just ask for cask!”

Steed & Company Lavender recently won a Food Innovation award, sponsored by Foodland Ontario, for their lavender preserves. The judges praised the outstanding flavour of the Sparta farm’s product, but noted that the packaging had caught their eye before they had sampled a bite. Congratulations to owner Suzanne Steed!

Half Hours on Earth is the new craft brewery in Seaforth. Co-owners Kristen Harburn and Kyle Teichert are Huron County natives — she grew up in the Bayfield area, he in Seaforth. Half Hours on Earth sells its products on-line and at the Seaforth brewery, located in what was once a salad-dressing facility at 151 Main St. S., next to Everspring Farms.

Upper Thames Brewing Company will begin operations June 1 in Woodstock. Partners Moe Morris, Chad Paton, Frank Raso, Josh Bowes and Carl Bloomfield are all local beer enthusiasts and entrepreneurs, and anticipate a high demand for the high quality, locally sourced product.

Something new and exciting is coming to Port Stanley: Lauren Van Dixhoorn is opening her restaurant Solo on Main in May at the former Mickey’s Boathouse.

The Oxford County Cheese Trail launches on May 13th. The trail is divided into hubs to help you identify what highlights are nearby. If you plan on seeing everything on the trail, the suggested route starts at Mountainoak Cheese and continues to Bright Cheese & Butter, Woodstock, and Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, Norwich. By following this route, your next stop is always just 20 minutes away or less.

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The Editors