CUISINE: GastroPub ADDRESS: 1269 Hyde Park Road DATE: August 6, 2013
My friend Erin says that people in London don’t like the term “Gastro Pub”. Maybe it’s because we’re a hospital town, where the term “Gastro” is more likely to end in “enteritis” or something, but she says it’s not really catching on. Erin says the next big thing in London will be “Public House”, which just means, you know, “Pub”. But with a schmear of Portlandia.
The term “Gastro Pub” is basically is the current version of the 90s “Bar and Grill”, which just means that the restaurant has a bar, but serves food. I would say the difference is that when you say you are a “Gastro Pub”, you are inviting gastronomists (DEFINITION: someone who studies the art and style of good eating—Merriam Websters) to come and judge your food.
That’s where we come in.
Erin, owner of London’s Cheese Poet (and a trained chef) had decided to join us. Erin’s cheese shop in the Western Fair District Farmer’s Market, and is awesome.
OK, I’M NOT SAYING I NAMED THE CHEESE POET, BUT I WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN ITS NAMING.
Remember that play I was in, where I was the fur-laden, meat-juice-swilling former denizen of London? Erin came to see that show… and to the alcohol-soaked cast party I hosted afterward.
Now, one of the other characters in the play was James McIntyre, the Ingersoll resident who was known for writing hundreds of absolutely dreadful poems about cheese.
Let’s just say that after attending that cast party, Erin had the name THE CHEESE POET in her head.
And I returned her water-logged dress when I found it the next day, in the grass, next to my hot tub.
Sorry Erin, but the truth will set you free!
Also joining us at Crossings was blog regular Becca, and her four-year-old delight of a daughter, Lucy!
BECCA: At this point, it’s easier to list the blog dinners I HAVEN’T been to.
LUCY: Megan. Megan! Can you make THIS FACE?
Yes, yes I can, Lucy. I can make all the faces. I can/inadvertently make SO MANY FACES while talking, if there’s a mirror in the dining establishment, I immediately regret being allowed out of the house.
There are usually not photos of me on the blog. When other people try to take casual photos of me, things go awry.
With the team in place, we decided to dine al fresco at Crossings, noting the spacious patio and lovely landscaping around the property.
2. OK, I made that up.
3. Outside, I suppose.
4. But doesn’t dining al fresco sound saucy to you?
Ian loves dining al fresco at home. But no pop-ins, please. At home, al fresco means Ian doesn’t wear pants.
Crossings was offering the London-licious menu, again with tilapia and chicken supreme as offerings, the same as Crave. Since these weren’t offerings on their regular menu, Erin gave us some insight on why these would be London-licious offerings at multiple restaurants.
ERIN: Chicken on the bone and tilapia are the cheapest things to buy in bulk.
The waitress also offered beef ribs as a option to include that night.
ERIN: (dryly) They must have a lot of them.
Ian and Erin went with the 3-course Prix Fixe for $25. Becca and I decided to order from the appealing-looking regular menu, and Lucy, as a four-year-old, ordered off the children’s menu while simultaneously colouring the pictures surrounding it.
But, because Lucy is a true LADY, she ordered, off-menu and UNPROMPTED, a side of vegetables instead of the fries her chicken fingers came with.
Because ordering what’s on the menu is for peasants.
Becca ordered crab cakes as her appetizer:
They were served with a sesame slaw, that I liked, but Erin deemed NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
And although the crab cakes were well-prepared, the three crab cakes were about the size of a thick quarter each. At $10, we determined it was NOT ENOUGH altogether.
I have a pretty severe obsession with Brussel Sprouts (what? That’s normal!), so I was super-excited about the appetizer menu offering of Brussels sprouts and pork belly.
If you don’t watch as many episodes of Top Chef as I do, you may not know that pork belly is basically the gourmet version of bacon, cut thicker. So I was picturing a bowl of Brussels, maybe shredded and with garlic and some chunks of thick-cut bacon.
I was not picturing THIS:
There are those damn microgreens again!
First of all, if you’re going to have a SLAB of pork belly and like, four Brussels cut in half, shouldn’t you call it Pork Belly with Brussels sprouts? It seemed kind of a misnomer (as would become the pattern of the titles in the menu versus what was served). But the big problem with this dish was that the sprouts were so heavily salted, they were literally inedible.
The waitress returned to check in on the apps, and when the saliva returned to my mouth, I told her the truth about the appetizer. To her credit, she apologized profusely, and offered to bring a different appetizer. Because we had almost been lured into the cheddar and ale dip when we first looked at the menu, we decided on that to replace it.
So, again with the menu details: this item was called Cheddar and Ale soup, so the flavours you are looking for are, you know, cheese and beer. Not, tomatoes, onions and…nothing. Mayyybe some cream cheese. Just to be sure I wasn’t crazy, I checked in with Erin, the Cheese Poet.
(Erin dips into a cheese dip with a spoon and ladles it onto a piece of bread. She puts it in her mouth)
But wait. There were more apps! Apps for days! Ian and Erin’s appetizers came with their meals. Erin ordered the brisket sliders, that came with a homemade pickle on each (nice), and incredibly salted and soggy frites (not nice).
The winner of the appetizer round, by a clear mile, were the wonton nachos. It seems like a weird combination, but the wontons were very crispy, and a little sweet, which made for a great combination with the bbq sauce, cheese and onions. Despite the fact it could have been served a little hotter, this dish was the favourite of the table.
Apparently, tortilla chips have been the wrong choice all along…
We left most of the apps half-eaten, but we cleaned the plate of these nachos.
Our entrees arrived, and I was particularly impressed by the look of Becca’s fish tacos:
The sides looked fresh, with a good-sized salad, and the batter on the fish was crispy. Becca thought these were delicious, but immediately noticed how salty the guacamole was.
Lucy also declared the fish “yum”. Her chicken fingers were “good”. She said nothing about great, so I choose to believe they were medium.
Ian and Erin got the beef rib special. It looked delicious, and was served with a goat cheese and potato rosti (um, you had me at goat cheese).
Ian pulled the bone out cleanly, which is always a good sign with ribs. He really enjoyed his meal, but Erin found the amount of bbq sauce off-putting, and too sweet.
I noticed that this menu only has the name of items, and not more detailed descriptions. This is a problem. I ordered the sweet potato perogies, which I pictures being soft and pillowy, with the delicate filling of sweet potatoes instead of the usual potatoes.
So again, what I wasn’t picturing, was this:
What I got was 4 wonton wrappers, folded into triangles the size of samosas, with sweet potatoes boiling inside, covered in bacon, onions, bbq sauce (??) and some sort of ranch dressing.
I guess they figured since the wontons and bbq sauce worked on the nachos….
These were extremely disappointing, too rich, and most importantly NOT PEROGIES. At all. Like, in any way. They were a different thing.
By this point, we were absolutely stuffed, and pretty confused about the direction this restaurant was going in. But Ian and Erin still had dessert to come.
Erin ordered the sticky pudding, and Ian the strawberry cheesecake. Almost inexplicably, they were both homemade, as described, and absolutely delicious.
Bring us some figgy pudding, indeed.
This strawberry coulis was EVERYTHING.
So, Crossings has some dishes that are delicious (wonton nachos, the desserts), and some that are inedible (frites, Brussels sprouts, cheese dip). Both the speed of service and the service itself was nice, the environment was appealing, and the prices were fine.
I had a friend say, “I’m looking forward to reading your review of Crossings. I’ve found it to be hit or miss.”
Apparently, she didn’t need to read my review. This place IS hit-or-miss. It seems like in trying to be a “Gastro Pub”, they are swinging wildly for the fences with their menu offerings. And only rarely hitting it out of the park.