First Look: Skin+Bones, a new east-end restaurant in a historic warehouse space
It didn’t take long for restaurateur-in-the-making Harry Wareham to realize that an old Leslieville warehouse at Queen and Carlaw was the perfect spot to open a new restaurant. Passing through the storefront, he entered a massive, cavernous space that was teeming with history. It would make for a stunning dining room. He called his business partner, Daniel Clarke, immediately.
“You have to see this place,” he said.
Wareham and Clarke had known each other for years, having worked together at Jacob’s & Co., Pizzeria Libretto and Enoteca Sociale (Clarke was a co-owner of the latter two). In venturing out on their own, they sought to open a simple, wine-focused restaurant. Their creation, Skin+Bones, officially launched on Tuesday.
The 100-year-old space at 980 Queen East — which is about 5,000 square feet in total — was most recently an auto parts shop before lying vacant for two years. Setting up the restaurant was a matter of showcasing what was already there: exposed brick walls, lofty ceilings, massive I-beams. All told, it was a four-month reno. Then there was the issue of finding a chef.
The owners first met Stratford-trained chef Matthew Sullivan (Maléna, L’Unità) at Enoteca Sociale, but it was Sullivan’s Boxed pop-up restaurant that really caught their attention.
Wareham and Clarke had attended several incarnations of the pop-up, and they were impressed with Sullivan’s dedication to ensuring proper drink matches with each meal. So they put him to the test: they met up with him, gave him three wines and asked him to make dishes to go with those wines. (He passed the test.)
In coming up with the menu, Sullivan’s mandate was simple: “it’s what we like to eat while we drink.” The focus is less on region and more on quality ingredients, sourced locally when possible, with a good dose of nose-to-tail (one appetizer is deep-fried chicken tails, “the best part of the chicken,” Sullivan says).
Chef Matthew Sullivan
A main of pork belly with octopus ($18) sees meat from Perth Pork Products cured in coffee, dill, sugar and salt for 12-hours, then cooked confit, pressed and seared to order. The accompanying salad features grilled B.C. octopus sliced thin, with a charred grapefruit-peel vinaigrette.
Trout from Kolapore Springs ($21) is grilled, then topped with fried clams. On the side are purple potatoes and black kale; a sauce made from white wine and the clams’ liquor tops it off.
In terms of wine, Skin and Bones enlisted the aid of Peter Boyd (Scaramouche) as a consulting sommelier. The current selection features nearly 40 wines by the glass (the restaurant makes use of an Enomatic wine dispenser along with other wine preservation techniques). Eventually, the hope is to offer over 250 wines by the bottle and by the glass.
The east end has been getting a bit of flack lately for its lack of culinary diversity. Some would say that the area has had a fine selection of dining options for a while now, but either way, Skin and Bones is likely to be a welcome addition.
Skin+Bones, 980 Queen St. E., 416-524-5209
All interior shots by Lisa Clarke