If you pick up a newspaper near Christmas time, you’re sure to see an article about Jamieson’s Irish-House and Grill. Owner Chris Smith opens his doors to all on Christmas Day and feeds anyone and everyone who comes in. Reading about his generosity has become as much a holiday ritual at my house as watching the original Grinch on television.
Until tonight, I’d never eaten there; after all, how could anyone be critical of a business that gives so much to the community? Fortunately, I don’t have to be. Jamieson’s turns out to be every bit the neighbourhood dining room, brimming with warmth and hospitality, as I hoped. Living room-like areas at the front of the dining room are furnished with leather chairs and sofas. Antiques and wooden planking on the floors give the room a lived-in, well-loved look.
A large selection of whiskies, imported beer and local craft beers are available from a well-stocked bar, and the menu has a broad appeal with snack foods or bigger meals available.
Our server comes out of the kitchen balancing two large plates of food, which turn out to be our appetizers: a goat cheese salad ($6.99) and smoked cod potato cakes ($6.99). Each of these could be a meal in itself, so large are the portions. The salad is tossed in balsamic vinegar dressing, with plenty of sliced cucumber, tomato and crumbled goat’s cheese. Fresh ingredients, just enough dressing—a great salad. The fish cakes end up being my favourite part of the meal. A fairly smooth mix of mashed potato and smoked cod, shaped and fried crispy on both sides, these fish cakes are a true old-fashioned classic. The lemon butter that they sit on is all right, but I much prefer the way the raspberry vinaigrette on the accompanying greens complements the cakes’ light smoked flavour. I take a bit of the cake on the fork, then a bit of salad with dressing, and suddenly there’s a party in my mouth.
Out come our main courses, again huge portions of Irish stew ($9.99) and “Jamieson’s Signature Stuffed Chicken Breast” ($15.99). The Irish stew, the menu tells us, is “Chef Kevin’s recipe from home” and after tasting it, I think Chef Kevin is lucky to have that stew at home. Chunks of tender lamb, large hunks of potato and vegetables give the stew a rustic, homestyle appearance; herbs, a flavourful broth, and a warm tea biscuit elevate it to a classic.
The chicken breast is stuffed with mushrooms and covered in a delicious whisky and mushroom cream sauce (I’ll have a glass to go, please!). So often, stuffed chicken breasts are overcooked—but not this one. Creamy mashed potatoes and sauteed fresh vegetables fill out the plate.
I love seeing the word “homemade” on a dessert menu, so of course we try the homemade lemon tart ($5.99) and the Jamieson’s apple dumpling ($5.99). The lemon tart has a light, flaky crust and plenty of berries and whipped cream. The lemon flavour is so subtle it’s hard to detect at all. The apple dumpling is a whole apple, cored and stuffed with raisins, brown sugar and cinnamon, swathed in puff pastry and baked. I would have liked it to be hotter and a little softer, which could have been achieved by baking it longer, but it was certainly yummy.
I have some Grinch-like envy towards the lucky souls who live nearby. I’m going to ask Santa to put a Jamieson’s in my neighbourhood for Christmas.
Jamieson’s Irish-House and Grill5 Cumberland Drive433-0500Sun-Thu 11:30am-9:30pm Fri-Sat 11:30am-10:30pm
Liz Feltham’s past reviews are gifts that keep on giving. Find them online: www.foodcritic.ca