First Look: Pair of friends open Brothers to offer casual and graceful dining above Bay Station


Citrus yogurt cake with sea buckthorn berries ($9)

Image: David Ort

“You’re going to eat food, that’s all I can promise,” Chris White says of the restaurant he and his good friend, Jonathan Nicolau, opened above Bay Station.

The two have been working on developing the idea for a restaurant — in the end, it needed to be "casual and graceful and nice and in the centre of the city” — almost from the time they met. Both were working on the bar side of the business; Nicolau at the Swan in its heyday and White at Terroni’s Queen West outpost. 

For Brothers, their division of labour has Nicolau run the kitchen and White behind the 16-plus-seat bar. 

“You can explain a lot with functionality,” say White of how the room is divided. “If you walk in and it’s mostly bar that’s going to answer intelligent people’s questions right there.”

Mackerel, pickled eggplant, mint ($15) (IMAGE: DAVID ORT)


The setup also allows him to tap into the operational ethos of a diner — without the clatter or grease.

He explains that the food tends away from composed, full-meals-on-a-plate in favour of meat and a vegetable complement together with sides ordered separately. Even though the menu changes constantly (something will rotate every day depending on whim and what suppliers bring in), they print a menu to help put guests at ease and to avoid making them crane to see a chalkboard or sit through a long recitation of the day’s options. 

“Critical thought plays a huge role,” White says of how Nicolau designs dishes. “Ethics, localism all the shit we should have been doing for the last forty years without talking about it” motivate choices. 

Beef carpaccio, enoki mushrooms, shallots, wheat berries ($17) (IMAGE: DAVID ORT)


Because it is one of their own favourite ways to start a meal, carpaccio, in some form or another, will almost always earn a spot on the menu. 

The simple-sounding combination of mackerel, mint and pickled eggplant has been a mainstay for their first three months of business.

Local craft beer options complement the wine on the list (IMAGE: DAVID ORT)


To emphasize the essential combination with food, they put “wine” in the name of the restaurant. The list, just as likely to change, is put together by sommelier Courtney Stebbings. She comes to Brothers after stints at Lyle’s and the famous River Cafe in London. 

When debating how to convert the space  — formerly Cafe Iris, a Chinese restaurant that also specialized in sandwiches and all-day breakfast — they leaned heavily on their own experience, advice from friends who are professional designers and Nicolau’s every-issue collection of World of Interiors back to when he was seventeen. 

Popularity from attention has stretched the capacity of the 30-seat room, but White stresses how important local regulars are to the business and, while they do take reservations, he tries to hold back a few seats for walk-ins.

Brothers Food & Wine, 1240 Bay St., 416-804-6066, Mon. to Sat. from 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Sweetbreads, artichoke, frisee ($18) (IMAGE: DAVID ORT)


Clams, white wine, butter ($17) (IMAGE: DAVID ORT)


Beets, garlic yogurt, bread ($13) (IMAGE: DAVID ORT)


Edit Module

Join the conversation and have your say by commenting below. Our comment system uses a Facebook plugin. Please note that you'll have to turn off some ad-blockers in order to see the comments.

Edit Module

David Ort is the web editor at and the author of The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook. Check out his site, follow him on Instagram and Twitter for more great beer and food content. Have a story idea? Get in touch at

Edit ModuleShow Tags

You may also like...

First Look: Akira Back brings some Michelin star power to Toronto

First Look: Akira Back brings some Michelin star power to Toronto

Michelin-star chef Akira Back has set up shop with his eponymous modern Korean eatery inside Bisha hotel.
Posted 22 hours ago
Asian fusion cocktail is the bee's knees at Chinatown's R&D

Asian fusion cocktail is the bee's knees at Chinatown's R&D

The cocktails are just as inspired as the food at R&D in Chinatown.
Posted 4 days ago
First Look: Rob Bragagnolo’s Campo Food Hall opens at King and Spadina

First Look: Rob Bragagnolo’s Campo Food Hall opens at King and Spadina

Toronto has suddenly joined the global food hall trend and Rob Bragagnolo (Carver) is one of the leaders of this revolution with Campo, recently opened at King and Spadina.
Posted 5 days ago
Toronto Neighbourhood Food Fight: Part Two

Toronto Neighbourhood Food Fight: Part Two

We scoured Toronto's best neighbourhood bites and put them head to head with the city's top-ranked foodie hot spots.
Posted 5 days ago
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit Module