The Bristol Yard, Toronto
After so much hype around this tiny little restaurant, I was very excited to have a meal at the Bristol Yard (146 Christie St.) and after almost 6 months of trying we got in for brunch. The restaurant is only open for a handful of meals in the week (Wednesday evening, Friday dinner, Saturday and Sunday) and with only 20 seats inside, you can see why it’s so difficult to get into. All the great food blogs of Toronto have been raving about the British comfort food served here so I had really high expectations.
The little restaurant has the atmosphere of a neighbourhood staple, small but well laid out interior makes the place very cozy and welcoming. The decor is simple yet interesting, with portraits of British celebrities covering the little wall space available in the tiny room. The two big windows allow for a lot of light while the wood planks lining the floor and ceiling make the entire venue as comfortable as a cottage. The music is great, not too loud and the giant portrait of the Queen on their menu board makes the place more”authentic” (for lack of a better descriptive word).
To be perfectly honest, the food was pretty disappointing. It was bland, served cold and we waited close to 45 minutes for the grub (this last complaint would have been overlooked if everything else was up to par). I had the Bristol breakfast which was their rendition of eggs Benedict. The sauce was not the usual Hollandaise but a very thick and gummy (cold) bechamel, the poached eggs had mostly solid yolks and the smoked home fries were just greasy burned potato bits that barely resembled hash. My plate came garnished with six (I counted) wilted baby spinach leaves and a thick slice of a mushy “grilled” tomato. At the same table, we also had the pleasure of trying the “Fully Monty” menu item, which boasted in serving up mostly fried hangover cures. This dish was very impressive when it reached the table, covering most of the giant platter with homemade sausage, bacon, baked beans, fried mushrooms, two fried eggs, toast, home fries and the dreaded grilled tomato. To start, everything was cold, the sausage had been deep fried only to render all the fat out of it until it morphed into a crumbly farce of grey meat, the beans tasted as if they were canned and the mushrooms were simply greasy. The best part of this entire brunch was the bacon which was served in thick slices and was cured with the rind still on allowing for a great, chewy mouthfeel.
My least favourite part of the meal (and yes, there’s worse than the cold food) was the general unsanitary condition of the place. Had they been open 24/7 for the past 30 years, it’d be more excusable but this was just a lack of care. The cloth our table was wiped down with was rancid beyond belief so our first few minutes at the table were unfortunate. All the glassware had fingerprints and even lip remains on the rim, the coffee pot was mostly solid yellow from a lack of cleaning (some vinegar and baking soda really cleans that up) and this is just to name some observations. Probably worse than the unwashed dinnerware were the dirty outfits of the staff. The waiter’s pants were filthy, covered in numerous stains that couldn’t have possibly come from the first two hours of this particular shift. However, the chef’s pants were even worse!!! Correction: The person we saw in dirty chefs pants was not the chef, but was, perhapse, the dishwasher. Having worked in the kitchen for a few years myself, I know how easy it is to just let yourself go and get messy. It’s a matter of having pride in stepping out into a dining room full of those you’ve just fed with your head held high and an immaculate appearance. This cook’s appearance just screamed disaster in the kitchen! Correction
Price wise, the whole meal was reasonable. Three people with coffee and tea came out to about 40$ which is a much better deal than some of the other sought after brunch venues of Toronto. Overall, my brunch experience at the Bristol Yard was a fairly poor one but having heard better reviews on their pies, I’m willing to give them one more try. Hope they can redeem themselves!