ZANE VISITS: BERKELEY NORTH
This place is a Pescitarian's dream. Fresh and delicious, we wish we had Berkeley North for a lunch spot on our West Queen West. We sat, we ate, we drank with Matthew Webber to learn about a the recent change through the lens of a local Hamiltonian.
Are you originally from Hamilton?
Yes. This is my wife and I’s restaurant. We are both born and raised in Hamilton. I took time away and travelled.
What were some of your favorite places?
I lived in Sydney, Australia for a while. And I lived in England, and then travelled around. When I came home, my wife was living in Toronto so I moved there. We lived near Bloor and Davenport. Close to a lot of restaurants and good food. I have been in the food game for a long time. Started off in Hamilton and worked in the chains. Went to teacher's college in Australia, moved back and there were no teaching jobs so got back into the restaurant game. Worked at the Chase with the opening team.
Was that the influence for this restaurant?
Yes, influence, but this is the way I eat. I eat seafood and vegetables. We were vegan for a bit. The inspiration was from being vegan and feeling a lack of places servicing that. Fresh is a really good idea but to celebrate an anniversary, I wanted more.
How has the response been?
It's been 11 months now and it’s been really good. So we not only do pescetarian but we do share plates. That took a lot of work to get people on our side. Some people that love the type of food, didn’t love the style of serving, and vice versa. But we’ve won our guests over. We have a different lunch program than our dinner program. We have a very talented chef, a very talented drink director. We put together a total package.
How have you seen Hamilton change?
I’ve been here my whole life, so I’m so happy to see it change. I studied geography and urban development. I am part of a case study of what I studied. I think when done smartly and properly with mixed use, when you make sure you keep it as a city feel, it works well. This was an abandoned building when we took it over. So we are gentrification. When you pay respect to the core and the bones of the building, I like when you don’t just tear down a building and put something new. I like when you pay homage to the space. Our guests are loving it too. At first it was hard to get people from outside to come check it out, but now those are our favorite guests. It’s relentless, every corner around here, there’s demo work, and so it’s going to continue for a long time.
How would you relate this area to Toronto?
Queen West at the beginning. Now it is quite developed but also Bloor and Roncesvalles. From the outside it was a bit sketchier, but when you found the pockets to check out it, was great. Now you see that here. We skipped over the sketchy part pretty quickly and now there's two blocks on King William. They don't look nice. We still have the character in Hamilton, which is what we are, but it’s a perfect mix of old and new.
What are some of your favorite dishes on the menu?
We transformed our lunch crowd with our build- your-own salad. We are still doing the sharing plates; we compromised by offering larger sharing plates. Two sections. Small share and large share plates. Everything is designed to be shared though. We do fresh cheese made in-house. Our head chef is also a baker from Blackbird Baking Co. We do it all from scratch so we have complete quality control over everything.