Modern farm-to-table restaurant concepts such as Craft Farmacy have shed most everything that is ingrained about guests’ dining perceptions. What’s left is intentionally curated and self-assured, hospitable and fueled with the lifeblood of culinary skill, craftsmanship and authenticity. Craft Farmacy is the epitome of the contemporary farm-to-table restaurant. Entrepreneur Jess Jazey-Spoelstra has
always delivered cutting-edge and quality food experiences combined with extraordinary service, her forte and hallmark as the owner of North Moore Catering, The River Room, Rhino Lounge and co-owner of Craft Farmacy. Chef Andrew Wolwowicz, formerly of The Springs restaurant, is a partner as is Spoelstra’s husband Harmen. Jamie Sandwith and Cody Ballman are the experienced restaurant professionals who round out the seasoned front-of-the-house team that include some of the city’s top servers.
We are living through a culinary renaissance. As a result there has been a major shift in the focus of the restaurant industry over the last few years. More than ever, my work puts me in contact with the local food ethos, game-changing restaurateurs and chef visionaries advancing our food culture, like Jazey-Spoelstra and Wolwowicz. Just as important are those restaurant owners who have become arbiters for political issues and social justice concerns. Most of us have come to realize that if an inexpensive meal in a restaurant can only be provided on the backs of people slaving away in the kitchen for next to nothing, we should not be patronizing that restaurant. Historically the restaurant business does not provide a great living for cooks. Restaurateurs need to sustain their employees with a living wage. A good business embraces these attributes and treats their staff and clientele with dignity and integrity. Like many people I know, I will not knowingly support a business that is contrary to my values. Craft Farmacy is a restaurant with a well thought out ethos that is easy to get behind.
As a small business owner who works hard and supports other small businesses, local food initiatives and the larger community in general, it seems ironic that Jazey-Spoelstra was recently targeted by vegan activists for offering vegetarian options at Rhino Lounge Bakery and Coffee Shoppe, and not being solely vegan. She was accused of exploiting veganism. If anything, she has helped by raising the bar in the city for quality vegetarian food. The bakery had been the purview of her former pastry chef, the gifted Michele Lenhardt, who ran the operation as she saw fit. Lenhardt, who incidentally is a vegan, served some of the best vegetarian food in the city on the Rhino’s former plant-based Wednesdays and Fridays. Spoelstra might have been on hand to suggest a little tweaking here or there, or after seeing a cool fritter online, would want the bakers to replicate it. That is and was pretty much the extent of her input into the menu at the Rhino. After Lenhardt left to partner in the V Spot, the direction of the Rhino changed under the new chef.
Wolwowicz is also pro-active in the local food scene and among a small group of local chefs who wield unprecedented influence, and believes that part of his responsibility is to educate customers about the four pillars of sustainability: cultural vibrancy, economic prosperity, environmental responsibility and social justice. A well-known culinary gymnast who cooks with skill and dedication, Wolwowicz is one of the local pioneers of the homegrown and ethical farm-to-table movements. He was an early proponent of using locally grown ingredients from farms specializing in sustainable agriculture, organic growing practices and ethically raised livestock. Wolwowicz is aided by his talented sous chef Kyle Trafford and a team of apprentices. The chefs plate the food with open-handed generosity.
Menu items are progressive, rustic in style, feature high quality ingredients, local, region-specific and specialty products, and are executed with aptitude, innovation and attention to detail. Wolwowicz’s menus reflected dishes crafted from local, regional and seasonal products long before it became the prevailing attitude. There has been a significant rise in customer expectations for restaurants in terms of healthy-eating, allergy concerns, sourcing, and sustainability over the last few years. Craft Farmacy has kept abreast of these changes.
We have enjoyed plenty of unique tasting experiences like Roasted Bone Marrow (which can later be used as a bourbon luge) with Ox Tail Marmalade; Lamb Belly Croquettes; Brown Butter Chicken Schnitzel with Warm Potato Salad with Forked River Abbey Jus; Craft Duck Plate with Magret, Confit and Duck Fat Fingerlings; Cast Iron Hanger Steak with Garlic Frites, Slaw, Demi, Aioli, Red Onion Marmalade and Chimichurri; and a dynamite Lamb Burger. There is Hangover Soup (not on the menu) made with shellfish broth and a raw bar featuring a fresh Shellfish Tower, Shrimp Cocktail and a changing selection of six to nine East Coast oyster varieties including Malpeque, Irish Point, Daisy Bay, Raspberry Point, Lucky Lime and Savage Blonde with fresh horseradish, mignonette sauce and hot sauce.
Jazey-Spoelstra’s stylish design sensibility is reflected in Craft Farmacy and she definitely delivers style and comfort with attention to the smallest details. Setting the tone is an ample repurposed bar, stunning fireplace, custom-made leather banquettes and repurposed tables with comfortable strapped-back bentwood-style chairs. The servers’ custom-designed leather aprons by Coakley’s are another example of Spoelstra’s keen eye for detail.
Craft, as in an activity involving skill in making things by hand. and Farmacy, as in from the ‘farm’ and from the ‘sea’. With 112 seats, Craft Farmacy features sharing plates, a carefully though-out wine list, premium craft cocktails, ten craft beers on tap, and plenty of pizzazz. There is a private event space with room for 40 on the second floor.
Craft Farmacy happens to be London’s first Feast ON™ certified “Taste of Ontario” restaurant. Wolwowicz gives props to Chef James Eddington of Eddington’s of Exeter for introducing him to Feast ON™. Let’s hope that, with the unbridled success of Craft Farmacy, more London restaurants see the advantages and merits of becoming part of the Feast ON™ initiative.
449 Wharncliffe Road South
Tuesday to Sunday: 11:30am – midnight