Restaurant Write-ups: Regal Heights Bistro in Toronto
As we drive towards the Regal Heights Bistro on St. Clair just east of Dufferin, our car is slapped by the pouring rain that has caused that this stretch of Corso Italia has changed into a churning sea of gravel and dirt. The streetcar track/road improvement project on St. Clair Avenue West is still not finished, limiting the traffic to one lane. However, the traffic is easy in this ugly weather, and we can to park our car just across the street from the bistro. First we have to go through the no-man’s-land of cracked pavement and orange cones, and then I can finally squint at the building where I believe the Regal Heights Bistro is housed. After a short look, I have to observe: “There’s no sign, there used to be a big sign, and it looks like a pub inside. I hope this is still the right place.” “Yep – Regal Heights Bistro,” says my partner and points at the little hand-lettered sign at the front window. Just after that, we notice there is the trademark Jazz Brunch sign as well.
Just after we cross the threshold, a hostess is already waiting to seat us, and we can choose a place according to our wishes. It is quarter past eight and only approximately a third of the tables is full, most patrons sitting near the bar. “Is this your first time here? The wind blew down our sign, and the new chalkboard one was washed away by the rain.” “Tonight you are going to have lots of fun, there’s a birthday celebration and a jazz band is coming.” She reassures us that this is really the place we were looking for - although the interior looks more like in a pub than in an upscale bistro, and we can smell French fries in the air. Next we focus on our menus - a two-sided thing that quite disappoints my partner.
“They must’ve changed their menu,” he says with a sad face. Maybe since he is an elitist jazz musician himself, he just doesn’t like the idea of a live band performing here tonight. I have to read the restaurant name written at the top of the menu again and again, so that I am completely sure we really are where we want to be. I tried to look up the bistro’s website but I couldn’t find any, and the only online information available was a few bare-bones positive reviews. But I found some posted menus with dishes like caprese salad, provencale escargots, chicken liver pate, smoked salmon crepes and black squid ink linguine. But no homemade black squid ink linguine is getting out of this kitchen, and I of course don’t need a menu to tell me that. When we look at the current menu, we can see it’s mostly typical pub food, if a bit gussied up by some special flavours and toppings.
Our hostess comes back to take our order and I observe that the menus are very different from what we found online – what happened? Different ownership? “Oh no, same ownership,” she reassures us. “The website hasn’t been updated in a long time. Our menu hasn’t altered for the last couple of years, only our chefs have been changing a lot. But we strongly focus on fresh food: we shop daily, we cut the meat ourselves, we make our own burgers, we don’t use any microwaves… we just want the general atmosphere to be more casual.” Though the whole restaurant is definitely casual, including the paper napkins, when I look at the wall signage from around the world, I would still expect a bit more sophisticated offer.
“Well, we are shrinking from that term gastro-pub,” our hostess smiles and we are put at her ease with a charming, pleasant behaviour.
Read the rest of the story at our original original Regal Heights review.
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