Yes, the place is actually called the Queen and Beaver. And I will not stoop to the level of making jokes of a seksual nature about the Queen, because I am a classy lady. If you hadn't heard.
(We aren't always so restrained. For instance, when Logan made hare pie in Florence, he was unstoppable.)
Toronto has a number of gastropubs. I've heard about the phenomenon for years, but never actually been IN one, and therefore could not pass up the opportunity.
A gastropub is like a regular pub, where you can purchase food that's a little more thought-out than a sack of peanuts or a five-year-old bag of chips stapled to the wall behind the barkeep.
The Queen and Beaver definitely takes their food seriously.
When we arrived, it had just begun to rain, and Danielle, Logan and I were happy to slip into a cozy booth.
We were handed a menu, but the offerings were supplemented by items carefully chalked on a board at the end of the room, very much like the Black Hoof.
First order of business - drinks!
I had an Aviation, but instead of the drink I've become used to with the gin and the creme de violette and the lemon, this one had gin and cherry syrup and was served over ice. Refreshing. Logan's Manhattan was enjoyable, but Danielle's bourbon old fashioned was so over the top sweet that she had to send it back. When it returned, it was much better.
And then, of course, we ordered as much of the menu as we could.
Pressed Quail and Foie Gras with Prune Jam.
With crisps! And a wonderful little quail egg, hiding behind the... is it pressed? It looks sort of rolled to me, but what do I know? The roll was quite rich, and the textures were all crazy - chewy slightly gamy quail meat, smooth foie - all complemented by the tangy thick prune jam. I'm so glad we're going back to calling it prune; how does "dried plum" sound better?
Scotch Egg! My first.
Like I said, my first, so, question. Is this normally served cold? Everything was cooked just right, but the chill meant that the fried sausage encasing the egg had become rather gummy. It's a bar snack, so I guess it's supposed to be cold and ready to go? Gimme knowledge!
Organ meats and homefully refreshing rustic pastries after the jump.
Potted Arctic Char and Pickled Cucumber
At first, I thought "Man this is bland! And is that BUTTER on top?" (Yes, that IS butter on top. Potted char is a specialty of Cumbria, by the way, so we're talking pretty traditional up here.) But I had a few more bites and realized I'd just thought it was bland because my mouth was full of the HP sauce I'd used to make the cold scotch egg more palatable. The fish grew on me. It had a fattiness much like cooked salmon and a slight fishy flavor. Plus, there was a LOT of butter on it.
Toasts! Duck and Wild Cherry, Aged Gouda with Artichokes and Olives, and Sardine and Almond.
Delicious. Lots of STRONG flavors. The duck, being the weakest, sort of disappeared for me. Any one of these (OK, fine, probably with a side salad or something) would have been a terrific lightish lunch. The sardines, which had anchovy spread underneath them, were my favorite, but probably not for the faint of heart or anyone with a hot new date within the next, oh, week.
Then, Logan ordered a beer. It's a cask-aged Wellington Brewery Best Bitter, from a brewery in Ontario, and our totally on top of things waiter was very kind to warn Logan that it would be served traditionally. Meaning, warm. Also light on the fizz.
I would have expected no less from this place.
ONWARD! Though we were very full by this point! Or, at least, I was. But I was bound and determined to try everything we'd (over)ordered.
Venison and Kidney Suet Pudding!
Nothing like a nice, light entree, right?
We quickly freed the pudding from its house.
Brown sauce everywhere! Also braised venison and chewy kidney bits! And thyme. The suet - crust? Covering? Slanket? was really tasty, and sort of coated your mouth with oils. Suety oils, probably. I mean, whew.
Sides! Colcannon croquettes with a dish of curry sauce (brought out complements of our server, who said it really complemented the corquettes) and piccalilli. Piccalilli! You type that!
Mmmm, fried potato and cabbage croquettes... and the curry sauce, creamy and light on the curry in that so British fashion, was a perfect accompaniment! And piccalilli piccalilli piccalilli is a pickle with LOTS of turmeric and assorted vegetables, including here onions and green beans and cauliflower. I don't think I've had the experience of tasting something flavored almost exclusively with turmeric. I think we should cook with it more often.
At this point, we realized we were missing the nightly special, which we'd ordered. And we stupidly told our server, who apologized profusely and brought it to us. Because we were obviously short on food. Right?
And I didn't write down what this was. A... terrine! Definitely with sweetbreads! And... headcheese? And pickled cauliflower, and cornichons, and rhubarb (?)
When the server was selling us on this earlier in the meal, he said "Y'know, sweetbreads, well, they're the thymus gland, right? So what chef did, is he pickled cauliflower with beets, to make it look like the brains!"
He also made a very nice terrine, under all that humor. Pressed all primly, with sweetbreads and pieces of slightly gelatinous meat.
And that was it for our British pub meal! It was fun to try all these dishes, and they were invariably well done. Perhaps they lacked some of the sexiness of the Black Hoof, but this is uber-traditional food made by a kitchen that obviously cares.
Too bad we couldn't quite bring ourselves to order dessert. It looked GREAT.
And from a different angle, because there can never be too many pictures of pie, right?
Also, I didn't really mention this earlier, but it was so much fun getting to see Danielle! We've known each other for... jeezum, 14 years now, and though we were out of touch for several of those years she's one of the people I'm continually happy to have in my life.
Even when it's too dark to get a good picture. This is in the lobby of the Queen and Beaver, but it really looks like we've wandered into somebody's rather nice home to steal their lamp and use their stairs as a backdrop.
If you're in Toronto and have a hankering for some British food, try this place out. I doubt you'll be disappointed, unless you don't like British food. In which case, why did you say you wanted British food? I would have told you to go somewhere else!
The Queen and Beaver is in downtown Toronto at 35 Elm Street. 647.347.2712.