|Location||996 Queen Street West|
Guy Rawlings puts himself in the spotlight at his new Queen West restaurant. Diners arrive in the sprawling, open kitchen (a rarity in most downtown spaces) and stand-up bar area, where, if you’re lucky, Rawlings will flash a quirky smile and say hello. This is the intimate welcome I crave at most downtown Toronto restaurants and Rawlings’ first impression gets five stars.
Montgomery’s really knocked it out of the park with service, too. I dined with three others and, from the moment we arrived to the moment we left, we were all taken care of in a genuine way. Our server was attentive, but not overbearing. She suggested some of her favourite dishes from the menu when we asked. She was also extremely accommodating to one diner’s allergy.
In terms of the dining space, it’s best summed up as: hipster bomb shelter (textured off-white walls, dim lighting, low ceiling, kitschy salt shakers) meets grandma’s kitchen (Corelle-like dishes, giant wall-mounted rug, dried herbs and flowers strung across the space and that indescribable “grandma” scent of lavender and something else I can’t quite put my finger on).
Ambiance and service set the bar high. The food, on the other hand, lowered it slightly. Coming from Bar Isabel and Bar Raval, I was expecting an epic meal from Rawlings. Montgomery’s food and wine menus were both refined and well curated, which made the selection process easier. The Canadian-inspired menu incorporated local and seasonal ingredients such as leeks, Prince Edward Island beef and freshly baked sourdough served with a variety of butters or lentil dip. At the server’s recommendation, we tried the bread and butter, broth and lettuce, mussels, celeriac, mushrooms, leeks and whey, duck and beef.
Although the servings were on the small side, they were well priced, considering all the local ingredients. The duck was cooked to perfection, complete with crispy skin and delicious garnishes. The leeks and whey were also a palate pleaser, but there was nothing novel about how they were prepared or presented—they were essentially melted leeks with a sprinkling of fresh herbs. The broth was underwhelming and very bland (should have given the salt a shake). Our group also found the beef undercooked and a tad on the chewy side. What I loved most was how each dish was presented with beauty and care (something I always value as a trained chef). The food was pure and simple, showcasing the ingredients for what they were instead of hiding them under garnishes and sauces.
All in all, the tastes were too familiar for my liking (I was expecting more of a culinary adventure from Rawlings—an “update” on grandma’s cooking, so to speak). I wouldn’t go rushing back for the food, but I’d consider grabbing a drink at the bar to watch some live kitchen action. Kudos to Rawlings and Montgomery on their new space. I had a lovely evening.
Mme M. xoxo
Le rubrique de Madame Marie
1 étoile – Run. Before you get the runs.
2 étoiles – Mediocre, but nothing you couldn’t make at home.
3 étoiles – C’est bon, with some standout qualities.
4 étoiles – Many memorable qualities and excellent execution. Compliments to the chef.
5 étoiles – Formidable! Michelin Star quality. Book a reservation immediately.