416 588 2299 | $20-$26 Entrees
It’s been a few weeks now since The Grove opened up in the increasingly competitive Dundas West strip, and I decided it was about time I dropped in for what appeared to be some delicious British delights. The buzz from chefs in the area and some folks who beat me to the punch had been exceedingly positive, so my expectations were high. With a Dark & Stormy in-hand (below), we ordered everything that sounded inviting.
You’ll notice immediately that the menu is quite succint, which is usually a good sign. If it’s there, there’s a reason. There are five items I’d call starters with options centered around root veggies and seafood, and five meat-centric mains.
Our server indicated we’d be missing out if we didn’t order the parsley root soup (above), so that’s where we began. She was bang on: this provided one of the best bites of the night. The parsley root has a rutabaga-parsnip vibe to it, and when combined with fried bread and bacon, you understand why this is a can’t miss. Add some snails for texture and you’ll be re-ordering it.
Next up was a new dish on the menu (above): dungeness crab pieces, with lots of dill and purees/sauces that tasted like dill with radishes. Presentation wise it’s beautiful and fresh on arrival (apologies for the shadows, it’s dimly lit so needed some light from a phone). I thought this tasted very clean, well-seasoned and straightforward. Appreciated the simplicity of the flavours.
We also had to order ‘chips’. I find between these guys and Queen & Beaver, fries are just generally out of this world with homemade smokey ketchups and crispy-on-the-outside, soft-inside wedges. If this place were open for lunch, I’d get the parsley root soup with some chips in a heartbeat.
The last appetizer/starter was the scallop with picked walnuts, stinging nettle sauce, and some beech mushrooms. Stunning presentation here, but I felt like this dish was missing flavour. Stinging nettle evokes an expectation of bold flavour (even though factually it shouldn’t when it’s cooked down), the beech mushrooms were relatively mild, and there weren’t many walnuts. Scallops were cooked perfectly, but had lost their heat as well. I wanted more boldness, for an admittedly non-sense reason.
On to the mains.
The first was beef two ways (skirt steak and short rib) along with an oyster emulsion and deep-fried oyster. The deep-fried oyster was tasty and the skirt steak had good flavour from whatever the marinade was. Thought the short rib didn’t have much to it in the way of taste and again the proteins were on the lukewarm to cold side.
We also ordered the lamb (above), that comes in both a filet and sausage form, charred red onion and bread sauce. Again, the food was lukewarm and the plates were cold. Apparently there’s some heating for the hotplate in the kitchen that has yet to arrive, so I’m sure this will be remedied. Here, the sausage was pretty good and the lamb cooked perfectly, but I didn’t find there to be much else on the plate outside of red onion, crisps, and a gravy-like sauce. The actual star was the bread sauce, but there was so little on the plate. I’d be much more liberal with it.
The last main was the cornish hen (above), accompanied by barley and a swede puree (another root veg). This must have been the last main plated because everything was hot and delicious. The loose hen sausage wrapped in pastry was excellent and moist with a nice punch of grainy mustard. The other meat (think it was breast) was mouth-watering and had some great salty, crispy skin on the outside. Best main by far.
We also ordered some yorkshire puddings (above) to go along with the mains, again on the recommendation of our server. They were topped with a bit of oxtail and some sauce at the bottom, but were also kind of cold. I didn’t find there to be much to them taste-wise either. I’ll say texturally that I enjoyed how light and fluffy they were though.
To end the meal, we also took three forks into the gingerbread with marmalade, custard and creme fraiche. The ginger was very forward (excellent) and the rest of the components married quite well. This was a satisfying couple of bites.
Service and Ambience
Inside, the look is exactly what you’d expect from the area. Big windows out front for light, dimly lit otherwise, lots of exposed brick and wood, and a bar up front. The most charming features are the mismatched wooden chairs throughout. Kind of feels like my dining room as a kid.
Photo credit: Toronto Life
Our server was great throughout the night, offering recommendations (I’d say she went 1 for 2), checking up on the food, explaining elements of our plates clearly, and responding to our questions about the temperature of some of the dishes.
This is another hit for Dundas West with some really memorable dishes, specifically the soup, chips, and hen. I think having a drafty hotplate for the meticulous plating process is a must-fix-now kind of issue, but outside of that, I really did enjoy both the concept and product. All in all, you should probably add this place to your list of new restos to visit in the area, just give it a couple weeks.
Posted by: Jacob, Visited Apr 21, 2012