What’s on the menu at the Fall Bright Tavern, a homey new spot in Christie Pits with out-of-this-world chocolate cake

What’s on the menu at the Fall Bright Tavern, a homey new spot in Christie Pits with out-of-this-world chocolate cake

And something called “olive roulette”

A spread of dishes and cocktails on a table

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Name: The Fall Bright Tavern
Contact: 840 Bloor St. W., thefallbright.com, @thefallbrighttavern
Neighbourhood: Christie Pits
Owners: Joe Rutherford and Brett Healey
Chef: Brett Healey
Accessibility: Step at entrance; accessible washroom

Joe Rutherford and Brett Healey have a long relationship with the restaurant industry—and with each other. They started dating after meeting at a wine bar in London, Ontario, in the early aughts, then they worked extensively together in food and wine—first in Niagara-on-the-Lake and then in Toronto. As they travelled, cooked and worked together, the idea to open their own spot began to take shape. And despite ending the romantic side of their relationship, they remained best friends and continued to develop the concept for their dream eatery: a small, inviting neighbourhood restaurant that would serve a continually updated menu of elevated comfort food.

Two men, one wearing an apron, sit at a table in a restaurant
Rutherford (left) and Healey

Over the years, their vision took on a more concrete form. Eventually, it was Rutherford who convinced Healey to leave his job working the front of house at Edulis, arguing that they had put off the project for too long. Through an industry connection, they found a small space and got to work bringing a decades-long dream to life. “We can definitely appreciate a super-stylized dining room, marble countertops and monogrammed plates, but that’s not what we’re doing here,” says Rutherford. “This is about warm candlelight, delicious food and just enjoying the people you’re dining with.”

Menus and cutlery on a sideboard at a restaurant

The food

Honest, deceptively simple fare lifted with Healey’s well-honed artistry—food that leaves you feeling nourished in more ways than one. There’s hearty chicken stew topped with crispy cubes of fried panisse, a chickpea batter laced with thyme, rosemary and garlic. Or pale-gold potato pie wrapped in house-made puff pastry and set in a river of punchy, herbaceous ranch. Then there’s the Platonic ideal of chocolate cake, a chonky slice dolloped with crème diplomat, a mix of pastry and whipped cream. Main courses come in generous portions—share if you want or be selfish and stuff yourself. And because this project is about two friends chasing their joy, expect the menu to change regularly to accommodate the seasons and what inspires them on any given week.

A bowl of stuffed olives
Affectionately dubbed “olive roulette,” each of these Castelvetrano olives is stuffed with either preserved lemon, hot pepper, white anchovy or blue cheese. “It’s also a team-building exercise,” says Healey. “They have to be filled by hand, so we all just stand around together and stuff olives for an hour.” $12


A salad of escarole and squash
For this salad, slightly bitter escarole, which is remarkably hardy in the winter, is paired with roasted kabocha squash, fennel and toasted hemp hearts, all laced with a dressing of Chinese black vinegar, olive oil, shallots, ginger and soy. $16


A bowl of roasted cauliflower
Cauliflower, roasted until its edges are golden and crispy, is tossed in a creamy pistachio-tarragon vinaigrette made with a mix of regular and sweet Sicilian pistachios—and topped with more pistachios for crunch. It’s like if cauliflower married potato salad and went on a honeymoon to Sicily. $16


Marinated eggplant
A play on the Italian dish melanzane sott’olio (eggplant cured in oil), this is tender eggplant and nutty beech mushroom in oil, vinegar, lemon and oregano, marinated for a whole month before serving. The vegetables absorb the flavours of their prolonged soak in the tasty aromatics, softening slightly without losing their constitution. $12


A chef garnishes a bowl of chicken stew with microgreens
Healey puts the finishing touches on a bowl of chicken stew.


A bowl of chicken stew topped with panisse cubes
And here’s the finished hearty and soulful stew. Very good chicken from Hamilton’s Packing House is cooked with pearl onion, parsnip, celeriac, mushroom and carrot. (But guests can expect an ever-rotating cast of root vegetables depending on what’s in season). It’s topped with crispy fried panisse, a herb-laced chickpea paste, and a bit of chervil. $34


Braised and glazed beef cheeks
Beef cheeks, braised and glazed in veal stock until you can almost see your reflection in them, sit on a pile of sautéed apples and cabbage sharpened with cider vinegar to balance the richness of the meat. Finished with potatoes fried in beef fat and sprinkled with flaky salt. $34


A slice of apple pie with cheddar cheese
A mix of Mutsu and Cortland apples, cinnamon, and hints of Calvados and cider vinegar to amp up the apple flavour make the filling of this picture-perfect pie, against which rests a thick slice of six-year-old St. Brigid’s cheddar. $18


A slice of apple pie and a slice of chocolate cake
This isn’t just any chocolate cake—it’s chocolatey beyond belief, sweet without being cloying, and both sinfully decadent and lighter than it looks. Served with a generous dollop of crème diplomat, a mix of pastry and whipped cream. $18


The drinks

There’s a thoughtful, approachable wine list with a lean toward lighter, food-friendly, old-world-style (if not always old-world-origin) bottles. Cocktails also hew close to the classics, though not without a few personal touches, like preserved lemon in Fall Bright’s Vesper or black tea in the Vieux Carré. There’s also a healthy selection of aperitifs and digestifs, including some gorgeous sherry, plus a few very respectable non-alcoholic options.

A bartender adds maraschino cherries to a cocktail
Here we have the Hemingway Daiquiri. It’s boozy and to the point (just like its namesake), with rum, orange, lime and maraschino cherries. $19


A vieux carré cocktail
An almost-classic Vieux Carré, made with rye, brandy and Bénédictine but with the addition of black tea for depth. $19


A Vesper cocktail
This is the bar’s Vesper, made with equal parts gin, vodka and Lillet Blanc with a hint of preserved lemon. $19


A non-alcoholic cocktail garnished with a maraschino cherry
One of the menu’s non-alcoholic options is this lovely zero-proof gin and tonic. $11


Bottles of wine surrounded by glassware and stacked plates
Just a few of the bottles that make up the current wine selection.


The space

Fall Bright’s dining room is as cozy as a public space can be and refreshingly minimal by design. There’s no artwork on the walls—instead, there are a lot of mirrors meant to evoke the conviviality of dining with others. “We wanted the focus to be on the food and on the engagement of people dining together,” says Rutherford. Exposed brick, wood finishes, candles and a palette of earth tones lend even more warmth to the space. In the back, there’s a patio facing Irene Avenue Parkette.

A restaurant dining room with a roll-up garage window

A row of two-top tables in a restaurant with an exposed brick wall

The bar at a restaurant

Menus hang in the window of a restaurant

The exterior of Fall Bright Tavern, a restaurant in Toronto