For almost 11 years, John Vrakanis has owned and, with his partner Alexandra, runs the Branas Mediterranean Grill, the little restaurant with a great view at Stamp’s Landing that also houses the Wicklow Pub and Mahony’s restaurant. Alexandra does front of house and most of the serving, with John and additional serving staff as needed.
Branas doesn’t bother to advertise but gets high ratings for its good Greek food and a small but gorgeous summer patio. The couple relies a lot on local trade, built up over the 6 years they lived in Pacific Cove, the strata enclave right across the road.
Commenting on the tough restaurant trade, John says that “locals keep you alive.” Placing high value on the friends they’ve made in the neighbourhood, John and Alexandra greet many regular customers by name. Of course, the restaurant’s position right on the seawall helps a lot, too, and Branas enjoys a lot of walk-by traffic, especially during the summer months. Sunsets add lustre if the timing is right, and on Friday and Saturday nights there is live music, too; the currently featured musician is Sarkan Sogukpinar.
John is a food guy from way back. Born in Greece and immigrating to Canada with his parents, he learned from his mother’s traditional, yet adventurous, cooking and opened his first restaurant right out of high school; Branas is his third. Using quality ingredients – “only the best Cretan olive oil” and the freshest mussels from Granville Island’s Lobsterman – they’re pleased with the work of Jackie Fan, his dinner chef for the last 7 years.
John and Alexandra undertook all the renovations and redecorations on their own, and are clearly proud of what they’ve done together.
It’s a busy life. Buying fresh food every day, keeping beverages and supplies well stocked, opening, closing and cleaning, plus all the paperwork and planning – it takes dedication even when the place is closed. There is good fellowship between them and their restaurant neighbours, who understand the life and help each other out with emergency supplies when needed. With Branas now on winter hours, reducing lunch service to Fridays and weekends only, there’s a little more time to plan for the future, including for a major refresh of the menu coming up.
Neighbours will be glad to know that Branas, having just signed a 10-year extension of its lease with the City, is here for the long term.