To say the return of F&B Restaurant was highly anticipated is an understatement.
When rumblings of a reopening were first confirmed in December 2022, co-owner chef Rosemary Woods says they were instantly inundated with messages from people eager to be amid the first to dine at the popular Walkerville restaurant since they closed their doors in early 2020.
“Once we announced it on our social media, reservations filled up immediately,” she recalls. In fact, reservations were booked solid for a month straight after their January 7th opening night.
Woods’ business partner chef John Alvarez says while he knew the restaurant was missed by many, he was blown away by the response they received.
“I was overwhelmed by the first waves of customers,” he says. “Seeing customers from before who had so many memories with us; from first dates to now celebrating their wedding anniversaries. It was an amazing feeling.”
After closing the restaurant prior to the pandemic, the pair never actually planned on reopening, but received so many inquiries over the years they decided to give it another go.
“We had patrons all the time say, ‘I miss F&B! It was my favourite,’” shares Alvarez. “As things started to come back around after COVID restrictions were lifted, we decided to see how it would fare in this market.”
Located in the basement unit of a historic Walkerville building, F&B originally opened their doors in 2015 as an intimate dining experience featuring impeccable service, sharable small plates, and hand crafted cocktails. Never sticking to one particular type of cuisine, the restaurant became known for its unique take on global fare.
It was the brainchild of Alvarez and then business partner Tom Scully, with Scully running the bar and Alvarez leading back of house. As the business grew, the pair hired more staff; eventually bringing on Woods, who left her career as an architect to hone her culinary skills alongside Alvarez in the kitchen.
“The original idea behind F&B was that I got to cook what I wanted,” laughs Alvarez. “I wanted to make food that I would enjoy eating on my day off and couldn’t find anywhere in the city.”
That same ‘cook what you love’ culinary innovation continues with F&B version 2.0. While there are a few mainstays from the past (Brussels sprouts; if you know you know,) the rest of the menu changes seasonally, with a focus on creating distinctive dishes using fresh, local ingredients.
“We draw inspiration from a lot of things but it’s really just letting our chefs take full advantage of their creativity and running with something,” says Woods.
The idea of small plates and sharable items is to create an adventurous dining experience that’s fun and not intimidating, explains Woods.
“We want people to come with their friends and maybe try a few things outside their comfort zone,” she says. “Someone could order something at your table and you try it and say, ‘Wow, I would have never gotten this on my own but I really enjoy it.”
After a triumphant return this winter, the team is eagerly looking ahead to the future, recently launching their new spring menu, which features several new seafood options, as well as lamb, bone marrow, a tomahawk pork chop with spiced crust and eggplant harissa, and a decadent Parisienne gnocchi carbonara.
“We also have our vegan charred artichoke with a pesto we make in house,” she says. “We don’t really have a particular theme for our spring offerings, just lighter, fresh dishes that are a bit brighter for the season.”
There are also several new additions to the wine and cocktail menu, like the Edible Bees Knees; a plated, gelatin cocktail that’s ultra Instagrammable, and the Cod Sucker; a rum drink delivered to your table set ablaze.
“That great thing about this iteration as well is that we’ve hooked up with an amazing wine rep and sommelier who has been bringing us some very unique wines that you can’t find anywhere else in this region,” adds Woods. “She’s worked with us on our menus and really exposed us to new offerings.”
Woods says the relationship will also allow them to offer some unique pairing and tasting events in the coming months. They’re also beginning to host private parties and corporate functions during weeknights. “This restaurant has evolved so much already since reopening,” reflects Alvarez, “I’m looking forward to watching it continue to grow and seeing what we can do next.”