Review:Toronto:Downtown:Queen and Beaver Public House

When I think of a queen and a beaver, a few things come to mind:

1.  A nickel (they new scum of the earth currency since the penny disappeared).

2.  Something I saw on late night TV once.

3.  A cool English pub on Elm Street in downtown Toronto.

In North America, the word pub has evolved to mean ” a chain that serves stuff that once resembled English fare”.  Such establishments have popped up all over Ontario, promising fragrant curries and the best fish and chips in town wrapped in wax paper that looks like newspaper. The decor focuses on bar stools, big wooden bars, half a dozen “Drink Guinness” posters hanging beside the flashing Bud Light sign and your choice of three types of Johnnie Walker scotch.  A football is oval instead of round and Leafs nation rules.

So, it’s a bit refreshing to enter a pub with an allegiance to the motherland. The Queen and Beaver has a worn look, nestled among steak houses, Italian restaurants and a Firkin pub along Elm Street. The bottom floor is a humble dining room and a trip up the stairs brings you to a quaint area with a big screen tv, a long, threadbare bar and weary  chairs and chesterfields.  The choice of menu ranges from traditional bar snacks to larger plates featuring an array of almost every type of protein a limey would crave.

On this night, I climbed the stairs and sat at the bar.  An English football game was playing on the tele and I promptly ordered a cask ale, a rare finding in Toronto. Featured was an Arkell best bitter from the Wellington brewery in Guelph. I love a beer you have pull in order to pour.

For a starter, I ordered Wall Fish and marrow on toast for $11. The Wall fish, aka snails, were hidden beneath a sheath of arugula. Once removed, I had a feeling  of an 10 year old uncovering an army of gastropods after removing a log or bunch of vegetation.  The marrow offered a rich and salty accent similar to the garlic butter which drenches the escargot in the French dish. Delicious!

Wallfish and Marrow on Toast $11
Wallfish and Marrow on Toast $11
Wall Fish and Marrow on Toast Exposed
Wall Fish and Marrow on Toast Exposed

In the foodie world, you don’t discuss three things: politics, religion and burgers.  I’ve heard arguments erupt over which burger reigns supreme.  In many cases,  Marben vs Harbord Room enters the discussion.    A recent Burger Wars episode had a bunch of subway buskers crown Parts and Labour’s P and L burger  the champion by beating out the iconic Vatican from Burger’s Priest and the mercurial Dangerous Dan’s Coronary Burger. I humbly offer the Queen and Beaver’s hand chopped burger as a strong contender for the crown. Instead of the finally ground offerings of most burgers, this chunky patty allows for medium rare without contention and  was a thrill to eat, especially topped with aged cheddar and some english bacon and nestled in a sesame bun.  The side of fries were stellar and served with some homemade ketchup and a few pickled vegetables. It was also cool (yes cool is an acceptable term in England) that they ask about cheese and bacon without an addtional charge. It’s the little things.

Hand Chopped Burger and Chips $18
Hand Chopped Burger and Chips $18

The array of puddings were a spectrum of contemporary and classic.  Despite my strong affinity for the pineapple and marshmallows offered in the other desserts, I had to stick with the sticky toffee pudding.  I must admit, I had high expectations, especially after the burger and few pints.  It didn’t let me down.  It hit every note of the traditional pudding; spicy moist cake, rich sauce and ice cream to balance it all off.  The faint hint of treacle was evident in the sauce (which subsequently made me drive my car to the British store a few days later to buy a can).

Sticky Toffee Pudding $8
Sticky Toffee Pudding $8

Addendum: A couple of weeks after the initial visit I went back for some more pudding and a few bites of cheese (I subsequently bit the rest after taking the picture like Luis Suarez in a Chelsea game).  The Lord of Hundreds cheese was amazing and the Sticky Toffee pudding was as good as the first time.  I was rather touched to see the pudding served in the same bowl  my granny had years ago.  Although totally unintentional, it just added to my fondness for this place, despite the framed Ryan Giggs jersey hanging on the wall (this is coming from the mouth of a scouser).

Half-Eaten Lord of Hundreds Cheese $8
Half-Eaten Lord of Hundreds Cheese $8
Fully eaten Sticky Toffee Pudding in my Granny's bowl
Fully eaten Sticky Toffee Pudding in my Granny’s bowl

My Take

I wish there was some regulatory body which would regulate the use of the word “pub”.  Why not send Jeeves the Butler around with a checklist, ready to reprimand wannabees in a pretentious accent:

Lack of Neon Bud Signs….check

Cask Beer…check

Staff which a beer knowledge base greater than “Guiness is Irish”…check

Damn Good Food….check.

The Queen and Beaver would easily pass. Whether the name pays homage to Canada as a part of the commonwealth or if it’s a name intended to generate snickers from teenage boys and “Naked Gun” fans, it’s a classic pub in a city of replicas and imposters who count down the days to St. Patrick’s day in a feeble attempt to justify their authenticity….even if I have to look at a United jersey the whole time.

Queen and Beaver Public House on Urbanspoon

Review:Vancouver:Falconetti’s

When I first heard the name Falconetti’s, I had in my head it was spelt “Falcon Eddy’s”.  Maybe I was thinking of the 1988 winter Olympics in Calgary,  where the appearance of Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards (you live in Philadelphia or Atlanta, eagles and falcons aren’t that different, right?)  He was the iconic British ski Jumper who left memories as endearing as the Jamaican bobsled team.  I was hoping this place wasn’t quite the same as them..a lot of hype without a lot of talent.

Upon arrival at this DDD located on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, I was lucky to get a seat on the rooftop patio.  The mountainous view was spectacular and other reminder of  Olympic games of the past  (I’d say I could almost see Eddie flying through the air but he wasn’t that good.)

Falconetti's Rooftop View (Free)
Falconetti’s Rooftop View (Free)

So, in homage to the Olympic games, I embarked on an  esculent heptathlon in an effort to taste the best of what the joint had to offer.

The 60 m event was an $8 Cucumber Love -Beefeater Gin, Muddled Cucumber, Lime Juice, Brown Sugar & Soda). I finished it in record time and found it quite refreshing, especially amidst the warm Vancouver afternoon.  Alternatively, there was a number of local pints on tap, ranging from Storm to Russell to Granville.  Not a bad start to the meal.

Falconetti's Gin ($8)
Falconetti’s Gin ($8)

The long jump was the artichoke dip.  It’s a standard bar food that can be really good or really bad.  This one was somewhere in between and a little steep (yes, more mountain analogies) at $13.  After a great start, I fell a bit down the rankings with this effort.

Spinach Dip $13
Spinach Dip $13

The shotput was the poutine (both involve a heavy ball…one is steel and the other sits in the pit of your stomach  for hours after eating). I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine about 5 foods I’d want to be stuck with on a desert island if food preparation and safety weren’t an issue.  I thought long and hard and came up with spicy tuna sushi, rice pudding and cheese right away and was a bit stuck on the last ones. I’d like to add Kennebec fries to the list.  I’ve professed my love for the Kennebec potato in previous blogs and am quite pleased to see their recent migration to the centre of the universe( aka Toronto). It’s also good to see that the poutine has traveled west.  Falconetti’s hits the mark with this modest $8 offering which let the fries shine.

Poutine $8
Poutine $8

I needed the afterburners for the 60 metre hurdles..the afterburner burger that is, I’m a consistent sucker for a burger topped with jalapeno anything.  The burger was a little less than what I expected. The bun was great.  The biggest hurdle was an abundance of beef which was a bit more done than I like and not enough burn. The side salad was absolutely delicious, consisting of mixed greens (including kale) oranges, pecans, roasted corn and soy beans with a citrus vinaigrette.

After burner burger $13
After burner burger $13

The pole vault has to be the sausage (insert phallic joke here).  My indecisive nature lead me to order the sampler which is an opportunity to try 3 different signatures sausages (hot italian, chicken thai and polish)  with a few dipping sauces.  Seen as the signature dish of Falconetti’s , I was hoping this would be the standout event.  The hot Italian was classic and delicious although it didn’t have eye watering heat.  The other two were less orthodox (Thai chicken and Polish beef) and less tasty.  Although it was moist (which is tough for a chicken sausage), I was seeking more intense thai flavour.   The Polish were a bit dry and didn’t have memorable seasoning or taste.

Sausage Sample Platter $14
. Sausage Sample Platter $14

The finishing event, the  1000 metre run, was the key lime pie.  Although I did not snap a picture, it was excellent.  The tart filling was the star and was balanced nicely by the crust and topping.

My Take

Any joint endorsed by Guy Fieri should be in medal contention.  In this heptathlon, Falconetti’s fared well in many events and faltered a bit in others,  To start, the drink menu, highlighted by solid cocktails and decent local beer, got me out of the gates quickly. The spinach dip was overpriced with only an average jump.  The poutine with Kennebec fries was delicate and well- balanced and didn’t leave me feeling like I just ate a shotput . The afterburner burger fizzled a bit but the side salad got me over the hurdles. Regarding the sausages, touted as the pinnacle event,  the bar was raised to world record levels although it was a decent effort. The final event, the key lime pie, put the whole meal into medal contention.  Although not a gold medal performance, at the end I’d put this heptathlon of bar food on the podium of decent DDDs.  Eddie would be proud.

Verdict– 4 Guyz

Falconetti's East Side Grill on Urbanspoon