Meet Celine and Alex Bruce-Lepage. They are the owners of the new restaurant in downtown Belleville, The Lark. The pair have two daughters, Pearl and Dorothy, born here in Belleville. Originally both are from small towns: Celine from Vankleek Hill, Ontario and Alex from Simcoe, Ontario. Then went to Toronto to study at university and both gained experience in the restaurant scene there. After spending some time in Prince Edward County (or The County, for locals), they decided on Belleville for their new and unique take for their restaurant.
Meet The Locals: Celine and Alex of The Lark
Celine and Alex had always thought of starting up a restaurant, so, when opportunity knocked, they dove in and opened The Lark.
C: “We were spending a lot of time in Belleville and it was definitely something; it’s a city, but there’s a quaintness and a community feel, and we were attracted to that. Even on walks we were always looking around thinking that this city is so beautiful. And then we got the idea that we could still do the restaurant/wine bar.”
Although neither Celine or Alex grew up in Belleville, the two both grew up in small towns and developed a connection to the area.
A: “That brings us to why we’re here, and why we’re doing this. Celine really got into wine and I did a lot of the cocktail things. Because of where we both grew up, the Bay of Quinte served as the middle, in between spot for both families. We did get our families together there, which was awesome. When our degrees were done we wanted to start a family, and we couldn’t do that in a 500-square ft bachelor apartment in Toronto. Then we moved to the County. When we were there we had our daughter, Dot; she’s fantastic, but she had a diagnostic when she was born which had us coming to Belleville at least three times a week for doctors appointments. We figured now was a good time to come out and so we did. The idea was to do a wine/cocktail bar that also can accommodate various food needs for everyone.”
Their daughters have been a major influence when it comes to the restaurant and way of living, both even being named after a drink on the menu. One daughter in particular: Dorothy, or Dot for short.
A: “Her diagnosis means that she can’t process certain things, like sugars or deep fried foods. It’s a very diet-specific condition to manage and we realized we can’t take our kids anywhere. There is nothing on any menus that they can have. That’s really alienating.”
C: “She can’t have pasta, or pizza or ice cream. All the things that are really highly associated with being the fun stuff for kids. Every kid’s menu is grilled cheese and pasta and burgers and fries. But she can’t have any of that stuff. She can only eat lots of wholesome foods. Like lots of vegetables, proteins and healthy fats. So, it’s changes our lives.”
A: “So, the idea for our restaurant is to offer a space where she can come and eat here, worry free. We try to be very mindful of what people are eating so a bunch of people can eat here, worry free.”
The Lark isn’t just like any restaurant—but you’ll have to see for yourself to really appreciate it.
C: “I think a very big difference is that our menu is not designed with appetizers, mains and desserts. It’s not formatted in that way. What we chose to do is small/medium sized plates so that people get to share. We did that on purpose, based on conversations we used to have about how the typical result of people ordering an appetizer and their own main; when the food arrives, you kind of quiet down to get to the work of eating. Whereas when you’re sharing, you get to interact with each other. It makes for social interaction through the eating process. We’ve done these two ounce pours where you could try multiple wines. So, people don’t have to just try the one they’re comfortable with.”
A: “When it comes to the style of our restaurant and what makes us different, we are locally driven. Basically, when we built the wine list, food list and the cocktail list, there were a few values that we had to stay true to. Are we serving responsible food, are we serving sustainable food, and is it wholesome? We use quite a few really cool local producers, for some of our water buffalo and cured meats. A good friend of ours, who is a local farmer, has built us a custom garden where we get our plants and vegetables, which is fantastic. And we also go to the market.”
Not only was the location important for their restaurant, but having a good sense of community is also a huge part of it.
A: “This is our dream. We built this space for the community. It’s a place where you could come after work for a drink, you could come on a date, or you could meet a few friends. It could be just casual at the bar or a nice sit-down dinner. The idea is to build community, which is sort of why we deliberately put it downtown. We want to have that social space. And I think the timing, contrary to popular belief, really is good timing. There are some really cool people and some really great things happening here. There are always going to be people who are going to sit and wait for things to happen, but we want to be involved in what happens.”
As young entrepreneurs in the area, Celine and Alex are adding something special to Belleville but also for themselves and their family.
A: “To me, I saw something that was missing, and not just in Belleville. It was a style of place. Like a social space, social style of eating. It’s maybe a little different from the norm. Being an entrepreneur means that we can share something that we’re really passionate about, which people may not have otherwise had. That’s the first thing I think is really important about it. The other is that we are a young couple and a young family. We’ve created something that can support us and our family and give us the freedom to do things with our family that might not have been able to do if we were doing something else. We’re able to include our daughters here and they are able to come and enjoy the space, whether it’s eating here or helping us.”
C: “I always think that a big part of being an entrepreneur is that you have to be able to constantly pivot. Constantly being able to adjust, change, try to survive. That’s what being an entrepreneur is for me.”
So, the next time you’re thinking about where to go for dinner or a drink, maybe it’s time to try something new.