Ever since Agrius closed up shop in January, there has been a gaping hole in the bellies of wine connoisseurs and food lovers across Victoria, but their woes will soon come to an end.
Bray’s is a new west coast tapas bar that is moving into the recently restored, historic Janion Building in the space that used to be Café 1891, which closed in 2020.
Nestled in beside Nubo, the Johnson Street Bridge and the harbour, Bray’s West Coast Tapas + Wine Bar is bringing the finer things in life to Victorians who yearn for a well crafted cocktail, a wine list that has something for everyone and food that will make you wish you could try everything.
Bray’s is the brainchild of partners Brent Ryan and Gareth Bray-Bancroft, whose family has roots in Victoria that date back to the mid-1800s when the Brays ran a horse-drawn carriage taxi service on Johnson Street.
Following that, Bray-Bancroft’s family started a successful shipping company that operated out of the city that went under the name Bray’s as well.
Now, Bray-Bancroft is a budding businessman and restaurateur like his family before him and he too wanted to open a place that he could put his family name behind. When he and his partner had the opportunity to move into the Janion building, it was something they just couldn’t pass up.
Featured in the dining room is a picture from decades ago of a shipping truck bearing the Bray’s name on its side in front of the Capital Iron building, which Bray-Bancroft and Ryan took their restaurant’s logo directly from.
The food is all small plates, or tapas, which are inspired by west coast cuisine and ingredients that are meant to be shared. Every dish is meticulously crafted by Chef Harris Bredin who Bray-Bancroft has worked with before.
Their menu features a seaweed salad that has a variety of textures and an explosion of flavour, their roasted carrots are beautifully coloured and are paired perfectly with an eggplant puree.
The salmon is flawlessly done, balanced, rich, while also refreshing and topped with caviar which adds a phenomenal textural aspect to the dish.
They have a seaweed salad brought to life with bright mandarin, saffron and pea shoots that is also certainly a must-try.
Bray’s seats around 40 people in its dining room and they should have an additional 40 seats once they can get their patio set up. With more that 10,000 cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles passing every day, their patio will be a welcome addition to the restaurant when they are able to set it up.
The dining room itself features an open kitchen so patrons can watch Chef Bredin orchestrate his team of well-trained cooks and send each plate out making sure it is up to his standards.
The wine, cocktails and other libations are all put together by Bray’s bar manager, Ian Reinders, who like Bray-Brancroft, shares an affinity for a thoughtful drink to pair with their food.
Reinders tried to make the wine program as accessible as possible with a mix of old and new world wine that feature numerous BC wineries while making sure to include some skin-contact and natural wines for those who like their wine a little funky.
He wanted to make the wine list as locally-minded as possible in order to show how local wines stack up against wineries on a world stage.
The cocktail program, also developed by Reinders, is incredibly local, with many spirits from Vancouver Island such as Sheringham gin, Steelhead whiskey and Esquimalt vermouths.
The Janion building’s newest tenants are happy to be there and are finally opening their doors to the public this week after years of work to get to this point.
Bray’s holds its own when compared to any one of Victoria’s mainstay restaurants and will most certainly have people dying to come back and try some delightful wines and delicious tapas.
Their grand opening is slated for Friday May 19th, just in time for the long weekend.
- Where: 460 Pandora Avenue
- When: Grand Opening on May 19th