Thirteen years ago, Brad and Katie Watt arrived in Peterborough and opened a small restaurant focused on high quality, locally sourced ingredients.
“Peterborough was always good to us,” says Brad. “Great farmers, great art, great music. It’s the perfect town.”
Brad lived in PEI for 16 years. He’s no stranger to small(ish) towns. He left a brief stint to attend Humber College and then work in Toronto, but eventually returned to the Island. It’s at a wedding in Charlottetown, where he met his wife and business partner, Katie.
They eventually settled in the Kawarthas, where Brad worked at a local inn before opening Rare Grillhouse with Katie.
“There is 100% a food scene here [in Peterborough]. I moved here 20 years ago and things are so different now,” he says. “I was just talking about this with some industry friends. We used to feel like Peterborough was our secret place and didn’t want people to find out about it and ruin it!”
Five years ago, Katie and Brad opened The Publican Brewhouse in partnership with the brewery. They had been scoping the space for a while – as had other industrious restaurateurs. “Lots of people tried to open restaurants in the space, but it needed a lot of work. Too much for most people. When the opportunity came up for us we knew we had to do it. The building means a lot to Peterborough and we wanted to build a place for the community,” says Brad.
Needless to say, the community loves it. “Since day one, Publican is a monster!” says Brad.
It keeps Brad and Katie so busy, they recently sold Rare to their long-time chef, Tyler Scott. “We would not have given Rare to anyone but Tyler,” says Brad. “We knew if we ever sold it, we would sell it to Tyler. We wanted to want to eat there after it all!”
Not that they have much time to eat out. Publican is constantly busy. Between beer flights, a pizza oven and a constantly updated menu of locally-inspired bar snacks, it keeps them and their kitchen team busy. “Our chef, Becca Burke, is wicked. She was with us at Rare for years. We took her with us so we could manage more,” he says. “I still get to play with food and create the menu, but she’s the magic in the kitchen.”
The brewery has a series of award-winning beers, but it’s the seasonals that get us excited! Our current favorite is is the Brut Beer, beer made in a champagne style.
Everything at Publican is a team effort, as it has been at each of Brad and Katie’s businesses.
“Katie is super involved in everything. There would be no business without Katie. She never gets enough credit. She is the backbone of this business, of all our businesses.”
The two have lots of irons in the fire, many ideas on the table. They see another restaurant in their future. Alongside Publican Brewhouse and their recently launched cottage rental business.
“This is a great place to be. You can be in Toronto in an hour and a half, cottage country in even less. Peterborough is the heartbeat of everything. It’s right in the middle” says Brad. Now, isn’t that exactly the kind of place you’d want to visit?
Publican Brewhouse is located at 300 Charlotte Street in Peterborough, Ontario.
They’re open Sunday to Tuesday 11am-10pm, Wednesday & Thursday 11am-11pm and Friday & Saturday 11am-12am.