We don’t eat out often, so when we do we like to make it count. Brelu, across from the train station in Brantford, serves our favourite meals of the day – breakfast and lunch – and with a menu influenced by Mexican cuisine and local ingredients, how could we not go back again and again?
A couple months ago our camera’s wide angle lens began acting up. We were walking the rail trail trying to capture some winter shots and it kept freezing. We only have two lenses, and the other is a portrait lens and not so great for indoor shots, so without the wide angle we have been limited in the types of places we could feature on the blog. Fast forward three months and a couple hundred dollars later, we finally get the lens back from the Canon repair centre in Mississauga, and the first stop on our list was heading back to Brelu.
We first visited Brelu without our camera, and we knew the moment we stepped inside we would need to return. We wondered how much of the clientele was familiar with the greasy spoon that used to be in the same location; it bears little resemblance except for the fact that it remains friendly and down-to-earth.
In its previous life, the little diner packed in booths and tables in a noisy and run-of-the-mill ambiance (which had its own charm). Now, like most cool restaurants in Brantford, the atmosphere is ‘approachable hipster’. The attire of one patron – a young guy wearing a flamingo shirt and flamingo shorts – sort of says it all. It’s youthful and hip, friendly and energetic. Casual but deliberate.
Brelu has only been open for a little more than three months, but chef owners Julie and Mike’s vision was a long time coming. They both previously worked at the casino in Brantford, and when the casino had a lockout they took the opportunity to work on a business plan. They liken themselves to artists who don’t like to paint the same thing over and over again, designing a changing menu that refuses to become stale.
Their mantra is simple: They fill the café with things that they like – art, food and music – with deference to the bright and patterned. The tables and chairs have all been upcycled, rescued from the streets of Brantford and massaged back to life with bright paint colours and fun new fabrics, and they somehow gracefully juxtapose ceramic skulls and skeleton motifs alongside antique tea cups and saucers.
And of course they fill the place with people they like, too. The staff are all close to one another, and when we visited everyone sported their Canada Day red and white garb. Mike brought a tray of “Eh” cookies over for Moo to enjoy. Friends dropped in and sat at the bar. Everyone intended to hang out at the park after work.
Were it in Toronto, we guarantee Brelu would have lines out the door. Here, the wait is short and customers are delightfully diverse and eclectic. At the next table over from us, a family of four enjoyed their burgers and beside them, an older moustachioed gentleman sat alone. Two middle-aged women in floral frocks sat by the window. And then there we were, with toddler and newborn in tow.
Brelu is a part of what appears to be a Brantford movement around good, accessible food with character, a movement that appeals to all walks of life. We look forward to going back many times, with and without our camera (and perhaps without children so we can actually taste our food, not inhale it).