"We found this space on King William Street two years ago and held onto it just knowing this street was going to blow up," said co-owner Diana Chetcuti. She and husband Matt Webber conceptualized and designed Berkeley North with the west coast in mind. After taking a vacation and travelling along the west coast, the two found themselves in Berkeley. "We were vegan at the time, and Berkeley is lined with vegetarian and vegan restaurants that aren't just grab-and-go spots. They have proper service, proper drinks and they are packed," explained Diana, "We realized there was nothing like that around here."
Their patience prevailed and within the two+ years they waited to open, their vision evolved from a vegan take-out spot, to the modern seafood and vegetarian restaurant they recently unveiled. But challenges and changes in plans were continuous along the way, even changes in building ownership. It worked out well though. Located in the former Framing Gallery on King William, the bright airy space is part of a historic building now owned and revitalized by Core Urban. Diana and Matt find themselves in good company, the street is lined with new culinary hot spots. "[Developer] Steve Kulakowsky, has such a vision for the street and we got that vibe off him when we first met him," enthused Diana. "He even helped us with the final touches." Notably, the three story skylight that peeks through the Templar Flats above. The best seat in the house is directly under the skylight. Dinner under the stars, quite literally.
I tried three dishes during my visit. first the grilled zucchini with caramelized fennel. Executive Chef Jonathan Kemeny had previous stints at Blackbird Bakery in Toronto, and under Dan Barber at Blue Hill, a farm-to-table restaurant in New York. After working in that environment for six months, Jon turned home to find himself intrigued by Berkeley North's pescatarian, vegetarian approach. He joined the team. "He is wildly creative," said Diana, "While the recipes may seem simple on the plate, they are very layered." Menu items range from fried cauliflower with pickled chilies and tamarind, to roasted trout with summer corn and carrots. And I assure you, they are all approachable whether you are a vegetarian or not. While I recommend sharing a few different dishes for dinner, the whipped feta with tomato and pickled cucumber is my personal favourite. So much so, that I considered licking the plate afterwards. I'm just saying.