Posts Tagged ‘Roncessvales’

On Thursday, July 19th we went to a relatively new restaurant in Roncessvales called Hopgood’s Foodliner. We heard about the place some time back but had reservations about going because they don’t have a menu posted on their blog/website but we did walk by it last weekend and checked out the menu in person.

The restaurant décor is rustic but clean and nicely done (please click here for photos and another review, it was too dark and mine didn’t turn out). They have insets in the walls with interesting ‘sculptures’ made of ordinary pantry items, such as triscuits and Evaporated Milk. They also have my favourite filament lighting hanging evenly from the ceilings (great light to be seen in!).

Cool Décor

We were happily greeted by the hostess and she quickly confirmed our reservations on her iPad. At 7:30 the place was already busy, but there were a few tables still empty. The first table we were shown was at the beginning of the hallway to the back and I feared that we would be constantly disturbed by servers going to the kitchen (in the middle of the restaurant), so she showed us another table in the back room, far corner. I liked the back room as it wasn’t as crowded or noisy as the front (but that would soon change). Unfortunately, our new table was also beside a prep kitchen doorway (see Toronto Life’s 8th picture, with “Watch your Step” on a glass door); it seemed as though there was someone in and out every few minutes, and there was a very chilly draft blowing on me from the A/C above. So we asked to move and they were very cool about it. Our final table had us sitting at the front of the back room at a much warmer space.

Our waiter, Edward seemed quite knowledgeable about the food, and spoke as if he had tried everything. We decided to begin with 6 PEI blueberry point oysters with a delightful ginger Mignonette Sauce and of course, freshly ground horse radish. Both were wonderful with the slightly briny good sized oysters (I like to taste the ocean in my oysters, and I like to chew the oysters!). I had the surf and turf tartare with rave reviews from Edward. It’s a nicely chopped sirloin with scallops (surf and turf). It was traditionally seasoned and then topped with a thin layer of mayo and crispy fried potato pellets (well, that’s the best I could do to described it…kind of looked like mashed potato that has been through a ricer and deep fried). I liked the tartare, but I have to say I did not taste the scallop so it was lost on me. The deep fried potato topping was interesting in terms of texture, but I am neither a potato eater nor a lover of deep fried foods so I wasn’t as hyped about it as Edward, but I did finish it — all of it!

Oops! Almost forgot to take a photo.

JT ordered the Pork cheeks with mini sausages. The mini sausages were delightful and nicely seasoned, I didn’t taste the pork cheeks but they looked very tender. JT wasn’t wowed but he said he liked it. We didn’t have dessert. Our dinner took about ninety minutes and was nicely spaced without being rushed. On a down side, they have a very limited wine and beer selection (and the beers were quite obscure, the most recognizable being Labatt 50 in a can, which was just weird!). Chef Hopgood apparently changes the menu every couple of days, so you’ll never know what will be on, but rest assured it will be creative and tasty. Service was attentive, properly timed, friendly and consistent.

Fortunately, I got a shot before it was inhaled!

Overall rating of Hopgood’s Foodliner (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 2/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet). Reservations are definitely recommended.

Disclaimer: We purchased our meal for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

On another note, I wanted to share a photo of Chef Rob Rossi and I (runner up Top Chef Canada Season 1) at his place Bestellen when we were there recently. If you recall, I reviewed the restaurant here; we liked it very much, so we went back.

It was a rather dark photo that I had to doctor in Photoshop

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I have 73 friends on Facebook. I’m not bragging, I’m telling you because I find it weird. I really don’t have 73 friends; they are acquaintances that for some bizarre reason I share parts of my life with every day. Of course, some of these friends are people I really hang out with, so the sharing is done face to face on the most part. But then there are the friends on FB with whom I never get together, don’t live in the same hood, don’t talk to on the phone, don’t run into at the gym, grocery store or even the library.

One of these friends is a food photographer about whom I’ve shared information with you before, Jim Norton. I met Jim through work, our studio used to shoot with him regularly; our clients have changed and we just don’t shoot at his studio that often anymore. Jim and his wife Tonya live close to our hood and both are regularly active on FB, posting updates every now and then. Jim has posted updates a couple of times on FB about The Westerly, a relatively new restaurant in our hood. As you know, JT and I like trying out new places so we made a reservation for Friday night. During cocktails on Thursday, I had an epiphany so messaged Jim and Tonya on FB if they wanted to join us, after all, we’ve been sharing about our lives, we might as well get to know one another ;-). They said yes and we updated our reservation to four!

The Westerly is a restaurant with a relaxing West Coast vibe and refined comfort food (described by Amy Pataki from the Toronto Star). For me, it’s more Paris Bistro meets LES NYC (Lower East Side, New York City). It’s not a huge restaurant, but large enough that the vibe was great and the noise level moderate. Unfortunately, there was a mix-up with our reservation change and we forgot to take a name, but the staff (and owner) were quick to accommodate, even though they were packed! They sat us at a cozy table near the back which was great because we needed to get acquainted with our FBFs!

We were immediately served Arancini Bolognese (Arborio rice, Woolwich Dairy Goats Cheese, Bolognese and fresh arugula) as a gift for the mix-up. Arancini are deep fried rice balls. Now most of you  know that I am not a huge deep fried eater, never have been, but I must say they were DELICIOUS! Crispy on the outside, creamy and smooth on the inside. Very tasty indeed. Our drink orders were taken and we were left to ponder the menu (which is not huge, but it has a nice variety). Three of us at the table shared a bottle wine, which they brought and poured immediately. The cocktail (some kind of whiskey mix) took quite a bit longer to arrive; other than that, the service was great, and our dishes were nicely spaced giving us time to chat and enjoy the company.

JT and I shared the Butter Lettuce & Gorgonzola which had toasted Walnuts, sherry marinated Red onions and julienne dates (I didn’t get any of the dates, hmmmm?). JT and Jim both ordered Braised Short Ribs, red wine braised, roasted cippolini onions, horseradish mashed potato, marinated golden beets, roasted brussels sprouts — they said it was delicious; Tonya and I had the Steak frites, which was grilled strip loin with bearnaise butter & jus served on house-cut frites (I asked my fries be replaced with a salad, which they quite happily did!). The steak was nicely done (I prefer mine rare) and the butter was a very tasty addition (I just let it melt into the steak for a bit and then set it off to the side). The fries were substituted with fresh crisp greens, shaved fennel, radish, toasted pumpkin seeds, red wine vinaigrette, very yummy.

The dinner lasted just about 2.5 hours! The restaurant was as busy at 10:00 as it was at 7:30 when we arrived! We invited Jim and Tonya back to our place for dessert and coffee and more wine. It really was a lovely evening and now I can truly say I have two more friends!

Overall rating of The Westerly (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 2.5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meal for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

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