With Hamilton’s culinary culture thriving at an all-time high, it becomes tougher and tougher for aspiring owners and chefs to stand out amongst a vibrant and impressive roster of dependable restaurants.
Located in the revitalized James Street North neighbourhood, Berkeley North is a new vegetarian and pescetarian spot with a unique vision and a contemporary yet laid-back aesthetic that grabs your attention within a sea of great eats.
Owners Diana Chetcuti Webber and Matt Webber, both McMaster University alumni, were happy to discuss the newest and perhaps one of the most refreshing additions to the city’s food scene.
Nestled in a 100-year-old building on King William Street, part of Berkeley North’s allure stems from its design. The beautiful space boasts white wooden planks and exposed brick walls, with natural elements that result in an inviting and homey feel.
With a background in event-planning and teaching, respectively, it may seem odd that Chetcuti Webber and Webber would end up as the owners of such a niche restaurant back in their old university town.
“When I left my job, [Webber was at a similar point in his life] where we both didn’t know what we wanted to do with our lives. So we drove up the California coast…[When we got to Berkeley], the streets were just lined with vegan or vegetarian restaurants that weren’t just grab-and-go spots…they were proper restaurants with cocktails and great music. And they were packed,” said Chetcuti Webber.
So [our idea to open a vegetarian/pescetarian restaurant] was inspired in Berkeley, California and we decided to bring that idea [back home up north]. That’s where we got our name: Berkeley North,” explained Chetcuti Webber.
“Part of it was when we started this we were vegan and pescetarian,” added Webber.
“When we were living that lifestyle we really wanted to go out on a nice date to a restaurant that could cater to us…[a place] where it wasn’t something like: “Oh, you can have this on our menu and we can just take the meat off” or “We can just make you a pasta with red sauce”. [So Chetcuti Webber and I] were like ‘why can’t we have a really fun time and eat really good food as well?’”
Berkeley North features tapas-style dishes in an ever-changing menu in order to use the freshest seasonal and local ingredients.
From a delectable jersey cabbage to a savoury sweet corn tempura ball to a divine Alaskan crab pasta, the head chef uses a variety of produce and seafood to create dishes that flaunt a wide array of rich, interesting flavours.
However, good food isn’t the only thing that concerns Chetcuti Webber and Webber.
At Berkeley North, the co-owners hope to push boundaries with their cuisine, while maintaining a solid focus on hospitality in order to result in the best overall culinary experience for all guests – vegans, vegetarians, pescetarians and meat-lovers alike.
“The most enticing part of this type of cuisine is you have never experienced taste like this…One of our favourite things is when people come into our restaurant and say: ‘I only eat meat, I’m just coming here on a date with my wife.’ And we say: ‘Perfect. Come on in and enjoy.” And when they leave [happy and intrigued], we think it’s something really special,’ said Webber.
“We’re not throwing out salads and grilled vegetables. We’re doing something that’s really unique and satisfying people by going savoury, by going sweet, by going salty. Hitting all these different notes that meat dishes do [and exciting your palette],” explained Webber.
“[It doesn’t matter if] you are vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian or meat-e-tarian…Our tastes really speak for themselves [as food without labels] and we want everybody to feel curious and comfortable to come give us a try.”
“Come and have an experience with us,” added Chetcuti. “And then let us know how we do.”