David Gunawan launches more locavore locations and Donnelly Group heads to Toronto

Vancouver chef David Gunawan had a busy summer. At the end of May, he and Dara Young launched Grapes & Soda on West 6th, right next door to their locavore restaurant Farmer’s Apprentice. It’s a wine bar with a twist: the food is paired to the wine rather than the other way around. The 25-seat wine bar serves natural, organic wines along with fresh, seasonal food designed to bring out the quality of the wine–tapas-style snacks, cheeses and charcuterie–and artisanal cocktails paired with desserts. Then in July Gunawan brought his farm-to-table approach to Royal Dinette, a new street-level restaurant below Donnelly Group’s Blackbird Public House on Dunsmuir at Hornby. “David’s been consulting on our menus for years,” says Donnelly Group president Jeff Donnelly, who this summer was in the process of securing the company’s first Toronto locations. “We have such a good relationship and he was so easy to work with that when we decided that that downstairs level wasn’t working for us, we went to him.“ The 70-seat restaurant has pastry and butchery stations plus a counter where diners can watch the open kitchen on the other side. Royal Dinette is an evolution of Farmer’s Apprentice, says chef Gunawan. “It’s the latest version of the vision, serving honest, simple, delicious food. Everything is open, no hidden agenda. What you see is what you get.” –F.S.