A classic wine bar with a classic wine list is the spirit of Henry's. Opened June 23 and new to the Queen West scene, the restaurant, wine shop and event space is the perfect spot for meeting with friends, grabbing a bottle to go, or hosting your next soiree.
Henry's was created by Ben Hodson, owner of Brix + Mortar Wine Co. and Roxanne Hodson an event producer. Over the pandemic, the couple missed going to dine and began to think of ways they could mix their passions together. At the same time, the LCBO changed its regulations on the sales of alcohol, making it possible for restaurants to sell wine by bottle. Thus, the concept of Henry's was born.
Roxanne and her friend Rebecca Petro gutted and designed the space to create a light and airy feel. The approach is minimalistic, with clean lines and a simple design. The custom lighting acts as an art piece to keep the walls minimal. The rectangular dining space has a wrap-around banquette in green contrasting with white marble tables. The lime wash texture on the walls looks similar to European plaster. The space feels approachable, cozy and comfortable.
Neutral tones of green, beige and brown are found all over the focal part of the restaurant, the marble bar. The unique notes of purple found in the slab are thought to reflect the colour of the wine. Rather than a railroad design, the distinct shape of a horseshoe was created to invite conversation from across the room.
The design, though aesthetically pleasing, is also very functional. Keeping in mind that the space would be conducive for events, the dining room tables can be moved around to accommodate small parties or large gatherings.
The wine shop right beside is already holding wine tastings and educational events. “We really want this to be a hub in the city for people to come and learn more about food and the wine experience in an educational way,” says Ben.
The wine program at Henry's is super classic, with almost exclusively multigenerational families and established wine regions like Burgundy, Barolo, and Bordeaux. "There are also lots of good balanced American wines from California, Oregon and some amazing stuff coming from Argentina, Germany and Austria,” says Ben.
The wine list is about eight pages long with featured bottles and glasses. There is always something available off the menu at Henry's and on Wednesdays from 5-7 p.m., the restaurant opens up a couple of extra bottles selling glasses by the half. Showcasing anywhere from 12-15 wines by the glass, the ever-changing menu is updated weekly.
The cocktail program is classic, simple and wishes not to distract you from the whole Henry's experience. "The wine is at the forefront of everything along with the food, but there is something to be said as you sit down at your table with a glass of sparkling, spritz or a martini to get you started while perusing the wine list and thinking about what you're going to eat," says Daniel Sanchez, Manager.
Like the specialty wines, the food menu is locally sourced and changes with the seasonality of ingredients. Head Chef Kevin Le describes the cuisine as "new Canadian playing on mainly the seasonality and produce available at the time, but drawing influence from my experience as a chef eating abroad and in Toronto in such a diverse city."
The menu is designed to be shared at the table, with both small and large plates available. The milk bun, a part of the rotating bread program, is made in-house like the pasta. The Spinach Tortelli looks as good as it tastes as it's stuffed with a corn leek miso filling, plated on a leek pure with charred corn and topped with crispy leeks and Parmigiano foam.
The east coast oysters are refreshingly served with a rose granita and a strawberry mignonette.
The beef tartar is done as a play on pho, using the same sliced raw sirloin you would find in the soup. Sitting on a five-spiced cracker shell is the meat, crispy and pickled shallots, pickled pear, and cilantro tossed with a bit of hot sauce topped with borage flowers.
The menu's diverse influences offer a lot of options and variety for different palates and dietary restrictions. Chef Le explains that the creation of the menu is a collaborative effort, including Sous Chef Alexander Fields and the rest of the team.
Henry's is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 5 p.m. until late and located on 920-922 Queen St W Toronto, ON. Whether you're enjoying yourself with friends or grabbing a bottle to go, Henry's restaurant and wine bar are here to foster a fortifying experience for you.