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On the house

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Names change and owners change, but some establishments are able to keep right on going without any indication of the behind-the-scenes turmoil—is Henry House such a restaurant? It’s certainly seen its share of change: Henry House, so named because it was the home of William A. Henry, a father of Confederation, eventually becomes the Granite Brewery, spawning a sister brewpub in Toronto. After local brewing operations relocate along Barrington, the restaurant goes back to being known as the Henry House. Now, after a change of hands, Henry House has no formal ties left with the Granite Brewery.

Fortunately, the new owners still bring in the beer from the Granite, so the old familiar Best Bitter and Peculiar brews are still available, as are the equally familiar blends, the black velvet, black and tan, and shandy.

Having long been a fan of the steak and kidney pasty, I’m anxious about the food and wonder if it’s still the same reliable fare. We bypass the cozy, intimate dining room and head downstairs into the casual Brit-style pub. The stonemasonry, ironwork and heavy wooden bar are unchanged; the dart board is still there and the fireplace is roaring, and we can still see the feet of passers-by as we look up, through the barred windows, onto the street. A quick look at the menu and I see favourites like jambalaya, steamed mussels and—there it is —steak and kidney pie.

We order a warm lobster dip ($9) as a starter, then our server brings us bad news: the steak and kidney pie is unavailable. We settle for the Scottish pie ($9) and lamb chops ($18), and dig into our dip.

There are small chunks of lobster and plenty of cheese in the dip, served with pita triangles, nachos and small rounds of toasted bread—a big portion that could serve four. Although it’s an off-putting neon orange colour, it tastes fine and we polish it off in short order.

The lamb chops are thick, juicy and done as ordered. Served with roast potatoes, vegetables and mint sauce (real mint sauce, not the brilliant green jelly stuff), this meal wouldn’t be out of place in a fine dining restaurant —its high quality and presentation are head and shoulders above most “pub” food. The Scottish pie is actually two small pies, flaky crusts filled with seasoned ground beef. Moist and flavourful, they make an acceptable substitute for the steak and kidney pie, especially as they are served with both homemade baked beans and a pile of fabulous hand cut fries. A little malt vinegar, and we’re in pub heaven.

Our server tempts us with dessert, and I’m delighted to hear the gingerbread is still around. That and a Kahlua creme brulee ($5) and we’re all set—but no, we’re not. Back comes the server with his head hung low—there’s no gingerbread. He apologizes profusely and quite obviously feels bad that two things that we’ve ordered have been unavailable. No worries, there’s still the excellent apple crisp ($6) with ice cream—and it is indeed excellent. The creme brulee has a strong taste of ginger, which he didn’t mention. Fortunately, we still like it.

Sadly, it’s a “school night” and we can’t participate in a few of the signature brews. We have to be content with our meal, and satisfied we are, wobbling back up the stairs and out in the street, gently burping our approval.

Henry House1222 Barrington StreetMon-Sat 11:30am-1amSun 11:30am-11pm423-5660

Find more reviews at Liz Feltham’s home on the web: www.foodcritic.ca

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