Duo aims to ‘make mouths happy’

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Two Hamilton restaurateurs who specialize in shaking things up plan to open a new cocktail spot in downtown London this fall.

Erin Dunham and Matthew Kershaw of the Other Bird have opened six restaurants in Hamilton and Burlington, and one boutique hotel in Paris, Ont., since 2010.

The pair plan to replace the former Ritual Cafe space on Talbot and King streets, near Budweiser Gardens, with a cocktail bar that serves oysters, charcuterie and hot food.

They recently signed a lease and hope to be operating by October.

“It’s a place you go to talk to friends, hang out and spend an evening,” Dunham said.

“You can graze on food for hours or fill up. You can come before or after dinner, or even after work.”

Dunham, who spent seven years in London while studying English at Western University, said she fell in love with the city and has since wanted to open a business here.

“London is a very rare town,” Dunham said. “I’ve always loved the energy of (it). It’s like you choose your own adventure.”

Out of her six brothers, three of them are chefs, so Dunham grew up surrounded by the hospitality business. She said she also worked at several London restaurants during her university career to help pay for school.

Dunham completed her MBA in Hamilton and met her partner there at one of his restaurants. They quickly hit it off and decided to open a space together.

“Hamilton at the time was either super ethnic food or fine dining,” Dunham said.

“We wanted to open something different, so we opened Rapscallion,” which she described as “a weird, in-between of casual and fine dining.”

Dunham and Kershaw were unsure about the success of their first restaurant and opened it only on Sundays, but it became such a hit they were booked for months at a time and then opened seven days a week.

They opened an oyster and cocktail bar down the street to send customers while they waited for tables at Rapscallion.

From there, the two kept expanding.

“We’ll never stop now,” Dunham said. “We need that variety, we’d be bored otherwise.”

Another restaurant of theirs, the Mule, made headlines as one of the first completely crowd-funded restaurants to open in North America.

Using a campaign on Indiegogo, Dunham and Kershaw offered incentives to people who donated toward the opening of the taco, tequila and bourbon spot. Donors were given gift cards to the duo’s other restaurants that matched their donations dollar-for-dollar.

Big funders were also given additional incentives, such as having a roasted pig head and case of beer delivered to their door, a catered dinner in their home and their names on a wall in the restaurant.

When it comes to the new place in London, there’s one thing that Dunham knows for sure and it’s that she’s in this business to “make people’s mouths happy.”

“I want people to walk out of the restaurant and say, That was one of the best experiences I’ve had.”



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