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Old meets new in the downtown Kitchener rejuvenation
A 120-plus-year-old hotel moving into the 21st century.
One of Canada’s most renowned chefs putting a modern spin on classic European fare.
Wherever you look in downtown Kitchener, its recent rejuvenation seems to include nods to history and the future in equal measure.
Take for example The Berlin, the high-profile restaurant opened on King Street in December.
Co-owner and chef Jonathan Gushue describes The Berlin’s fare as “a modern European cuisine, with a nod to the classics.’
One of the more notable aspects of The Berlin is its ever-evolving menu.
Gushue says part of the reason for that is because of the restaurant’s relationships with its suppliers, a group of local farmers he describes as “very proud and very knowledgeable.”
Those farmers might have different amounts of their products to offer from day to day or week to week – but Gushue says that only pushes his team to think creatively about how to put the ingredients they have to work with at any given time into complete dishes.
“We’ve set it up in a way that when those things run out, we adapt. We put on something else,” he said.
“If I can only get 12 chickens, then that’s fine.”
Gushue’s partner in the business is Ryan Lloyd-Craig. He says they were attracted to Kitchener – a city once known as Berlin – in part because of what they see in its future.
“In the next five years … things are going to change dramatically,” Lloyd-Craig said in an interview.
“We just wanted to get ahead of that curve.”
A few storefronts over at the Walper Hotel, crews are in the middle of a $10-million renovation.
“We’ve got Ion coming in. We’ve got this entire downtown revitalization happening. It’s the perfect time to make this hotel … the coolest spot in the region,” said general manager Domini Baldasaro.
The renovation began in the basement of the 123-year-old hotel, with its restaurant getting a refresh and rebranding as TWH Social.
Work is now taking place on the upper floors of the hotel. Baldasaro expects everything to be done by May.
She says the end result will be a hotel with a much more modern feel – something she’s already seeing from her neighbours.
“That’s about creating an experience outside of your door. That’s about creating a community … where you know there’s going to be great music and great dining and great entertainment, and great people,” she said.
“We’re a piece of that. Every one of us is a piece of that.”
That communal spirit is shared by Trella White, who co-owns Gilt – which opened in September 2014, making it one of the pioneers of the recent wave of new downtown restaurants.
“It’s amazing to see the things going on (in) downtown Kitchener, and how many places are opening up,” White said.
At all three locations, owners point to Kitchener’s growing tech sector and new downtown condo developments as two big factors in bringing more people to the neighbourhood, making it a more attractive place to open a business.