The Grove (Toronto)

Is this really the best British option we have in Toronto?

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 1214 Dundas Street West
Website: www.thegroveto.com
Type of Meal: Dinner


Articles about the Grove proclaim it as modern British cuisine with a fine dining flair; but, I didn’t get that impression. It’s multi-course a la carte menu allows you to choose three ($40), five ($50) or seven ($60) courses from a selection of eight savoury and three dessert dishes.  To me, the dishes didn’t seem very “British” but rather what you’d find in any continental or wine bar type restaurant.  Perhaps Britain and Toronto are just converging along the same dining styles; nonetheless, I was a bit taken back by the customary sounding options.

After ordering, the Grove started us off with two amuse bouche of deviled eggs with blood pudding crisps and whole radishes with a lemon aioli type dip.  The deviled eggs were enjoyable with a hint of heat and mustard, while the blood sausage crisp added a nice contrast against the smooth egg yolk. 


Maybe it was done intentionally, but there were stark differences between the amounts of seasoning used on the seafood vs. grains.  The seafood was under seasoned while the tagliatelle (with the spot prawn) and the rye berries (with the Guinea fowl) were overly salty.  Only the meats were seasoned to a suitable level.  Conceivably, this phenomenon could arise if chefs have their own station, but, you would hope the executive chef and platers would taste the foods and realize the different seasoning levels.

The Albacore tuna was fresh and had a nice simple summer taste with the shaved fennel, slices of radish and splash of lemon.  However, since all these ingredients are relatively tame, there was nothing exciting to the dish.  If the tuna had just been crusted with spices or topped with a light sauce it would have helped.  Possibly, even the basil emulsion accompanying the guinea fowl would have worked well with this dish.
 
Similarly, the Lingcod was cooked to a flakey buttery texture but was bland despite the foam topping it.  Couldn’t the foam have been flavoured and salted to improve the cod’s flavour?  I enjoyed the fiddleheads accompanying the dish; it was my first time trying them and found they have an interesting taste resembling asparagus and broccoli. 

In the end, I guess it’s all a matter of preference. I found the fish under seasoned but my friend liked that she was able to taste the delicate natural flavours of the seafood itself.

The spot prawn was the better seafood dish, in my opinion.  The prawn was just barely cooked through so the meat retained a sashimi texture despite being warm.  The prawn was left unseasoned so that its sweetness shone through, but at least it was served with buttery uni and a very salty tagliatelle (this could have been toned down).  The pasta was made for bacon lovers given its equal noodle to bacon ratio.


The Grove’s meat dishes were the highlights. The Guinea fowl was cooked perfectly with crispy rendered skin and juicy tender meat.  A lovely basil sauce was included which brought back a lighter summery feel to the dish.  My only complaint was the excessively salted rye berry risotto. 
 
Hands down the best dish of the night, agreed upon by my dining companions, was the onglet (aka hanger steak).  The meat, despite being a thicker cut, was cooked to a wonderful medium rare and extremely tender.  A lovely essence permeated the entire dish through the use of fermented garlic.  The addition of the bone marrow vinaigrette was brilliant at contrasting against the richness of the heavy meat.

Throughout the mains they also brought out complimentary side dishes including fried chips and buttery brioche.  The fried chips were the first British taste I had that night. Various sized chunks of home fries arrived piping hot, crispy and sprinkled with sea salt.  The curry ketchup also paid homage to the growing popularity of Indian food in Britain.

The loaf of brioche was a hit at our table.  Hats off to the chef who made it rise to new heights to become light as air in the middle and so buttery that it melts in your mouth.  The sea salt topping the bread was great so that the pat of whipped butter accompanying wasn’t even required.
 
Alas, the famed Eton’s Mess wasn’t available on their summer menu.  So, for dessert I opted for the creamy goat cheese topped with a paper thin crustini, rhubarb compote and a thick delicious piece of honey comb.  The Grove had me with the honeycomb, what could be more perfect with creamy cheeses?
 
The Grove has an interesting combination of hominess and elegance.  The dining room is unfussy with wooden tables, mismatched chairs and exposed brick, dishes are served on mismatched plates and the staff are cheerful and friendly. To simplify things they offer on one type of water – ice from the tap.  However, even with this casualness they still change cutlery with every dish and refold the linen napkins when you step away; reminding you that you’re not in a regular pub.
As a warning, prepare to give yourself time for the meal; we were surprised to find that we ended up being there for three hours!  But, sometimes that’s nice when you just want time to talk and catch-up without rushing through the meal.
So many critics hail the Grove as inventive and one of their top new restaurants of 2012.  Sure, the dishes were good but I didn’t find them that imaginative or outstanding.  In the end, the Grove to me is sadly like an over hyped movie – you like it however can’t help but feel let down when you can’t understand what the mania is all about. 
 
Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10

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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System
  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!
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