Dining Out: The Brew Table was a pleasant surprise in Bells Corners
The Brew Table Restaurant Bar
360 Moodie Dr., beside the Days Inn,613-596-4226, thebrewtable.com
Open: Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to midnight, Friday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight, Sunday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Prices: mains $14.50 to $27
Access: No steps to front door, washrooms
We had somewhere we needed to be in Bells Corners, but not a lot of time to get there. And first, we needed to eat. For a quick dinner last week, we popped into the Brew Table, which, a friend had told me, served better food than might appear on first glance.
Attached to the Days Inn at Moodie Drive and Robertson Road, the four-year-old, high-volume eatery was a Darcy McGee’s franchise for more than a decade. Then its owner, Nicholas Lambros, decided to get out of the franchise business. He opened the Brew Table as an independent restaurant, scrubbing the Irish pub feel from its decor and menu.
Among the food offered here are the usual, crowd-pleasing burgers, sandwiches and gourmet pizzas. But more appealing to us were some main courses that were a little less casual, more interesting and just a little more expensive.
Pan-seared cod was moist and flavourful. If I’d made it at home, I would have swapped the onion and caper topping for something a bit zippier, saucier and complex — involving, say, mustard, or herbs, or deep-fried capers. But there was no complaining about the fish itself, or the rice and wilted spinach below it, especially for $18.50.
Pan-seared cod with caper and onion salsa, rice, wilted spinach at the Brew Table
We felt similarly about the Red Thai Curry Chicken. There were small misgivings in that the tomatoey but spicy curry registered more as Indian, especially with slices of naan and a chickpea salad on the side, but they fell by the side given the $14.50 price.
Red Thai Curry Chicken at the Brew Table
Had we the time to linger, we could have chosen from two dozen beers on tap (among them are Kichesippi and Beau’s Lug-Tread), plus a range of imported and craft beers (among those are offerings from local breweries Broadhead, Whitewater, Covered Bridge and Whiprsnapr).
Service was friendly and as fast as it needed to be. We were out in under an hour and early for our appointment.
Last Friday, we returned for dinner only to find the eatery’s 130-odd seats packed. Its booths, high tables and long, L-shaped bar were all occupied, largely by the after-work crowd. After a 20-minute wait, we sat down to another meal that was fundamentally good and strong on value. We had a few constructive criticisms but they weighed lightly given the reasonableness of the bill at the end of the meal.
There was nothing bad to say about fried calamari ($12) that were just right — lightly breaded, crisp and not greasy. Crab cakes ($12) had a made-in-house feel to them, but were a little muddled flavour-wise and had emerged too dark from the deep-fryer.
Calamari at the Brew Table
Crab cakes at the Brew Table
The lamb shank, nicely braised and not gamey, stood out as something of a steal for $20. I quibbled that its sauce was a little thicker and glossier than I’d have liked, but that didn’t stop my friend from cleaning every scrap of meat and marrow from the bone.
Lamb shank at the Brew Table
My striploin steak ($27) was ample and generously accompanied by OK fries, asparagus and mushrooms. Its char was pronounced but its interior was a fine medium rare. It did lack some seasoning before it had hit the grill, and a compound butter would have been a nice touch.
Steak Frites at the Brew Table
Spaghetti with hefty meatballs ($15.50) pleased not just the young adult at the table, but the adult who appreciated the clarity of the red sauce and and well-made meatballs.
Spaghetti and Meatballs at the Brew Table
A pan-fried chicken dish ($18.50) wasn’t bad, but the plating, in addition to looking muddled, took away from the plate’s strong points. Putting creamed leeks on top of potato roesti made for soggy pancakes. The chicken was also under-seasoned.
Chicken Supreme, potato roesti, creamed leeks at the Brew Table
We tried two house-made desserts ($7) and liked the sticky toffee pudding, which was muffin-like but still enjoyable, more than the Bailey’s chocolate cheesecake.
Sticky Toffee Pudding at the Brew Table
Baileys Chocolate Cheesecake at the Brew Table
Like the Elton John and Police tunes that play on the sound system, the food here is more comforting and familiar than novel or wildly exciting. As Lambros, who also helped run his family’s west-end restaurant, Peter’s Pantry, in the 1990s, told me when we spoke this week, “We don’t pretend that we’re an upscale restaurant. We’re an affordable restaurant.” The food at the Brew Table is “standard fare” and “average,” he said.
I think he meant average in terms of people’s tastes rather than quality, as his restaurant suggests that “average” food can nonetheless be made pretty well.