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May 15, 2006 08:23 AM

Treadwell: Niagara's Newest Gem

  • g

With lots of pre-opening hype, I had been prepared to have unfulfilled my heightened expectations when I tried Treadwell for the first time on Saturday night. Instead, Mrs. G. and I were treated to a marvellous meal that went off without a hitch, presented by polished and confident staff who made it difficult to imagine that the restaurant had been open just 10 days.

After the disappointing demise of Twelve in Port Dalhousie (St. Catharines), it was great to hear that Stephen Treadwell (former Chef de Cuisine at Auberge du Pommier in Toronto, and Executive Chef at Queen's Landing in NOTL) and his son James (one of Canada's youngest sommeliers) were planning to take over the beautiful space. Port Dalhousie has always been a difficult place for higher-end restaurants, as the area has a reputation as attracting a younger "get-drunk-get-lucky" crowd. The Treadwell space is truly lovely, with windows all along the dining room giving views of the old Welland Canal and spillway from Martindale Pond. Hopefully, superb recent additions to Port Dalhousie such as Olson Foods and Treadwell will complement existing stalwarts like Marie's to help steer more hungry people to this beautiful lakeside locale.

Treadwell's concept is relatively simple: Fresh food, locally sourced, prepared with care. However basic that may sound, the execution is brilliant. We are blessed to have many superb farmers and producers in Niagara, and it is wonderful to see a menu that includes a list of them, and preparations that are intensely focussed on their products. The menu will change bi-weekly, and is available on their website (link below). Dinner is a three-course prix fixe menu($48), that provides both variety and interest. Particular highlights included the Pressed Duck Confit and Parsley Terrine With Ice Wine Preserve Rhubarb and Toasted Sour Dough (with the additional $8 foie gras supplement: What the heck!), and the Local Organic Golden and Chioggia Beets, Tossed in Saffron with Smoked Ricotta, Hazelnuts, Dill and Niagara Vinegar. Desserts and mains were also solid, as was the complimentary asparagus foam amuse. Finally, the wine list is an intelligent balance of Niagara's best alongside strong choices of old- and new-world selections from around the globe.

With all that water around, it is not surprising that Treadwell has made a big splash. I hope that the ripples are felt far and wide.


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  1. Mom and I enjoyed terrific, attentive service and a great meal at Treadwell last night. We arrived slightly early for our 5:00 reservation and encountered the vacuum cleaner, so we were ushered into the "Tasting Lounge" to wait. James, the sommelier, presented us with complimentary 13th Street sparkling wine as we perused the menus.

    We were soon seated at a small waterfront table and treated like royalty. Two kinds of "Fred's Bread from Toronto" were presented with canola oil and blueberry balsamic vinegar - unusual taste, but not a hit with us. I much prefer olive oil and non-fruity balsamic. We were amused by a shotglass of carrot ginger soup topped with milk foam and chile and presented with a tiny straw! We both enjoyed the "surf 'n' turf" appetizer - a delicate layer of cauliflower semolina sandwiched between perfectly seared scallop and slightly overcooked pork belly.

    Instead of sorbet, we received foie gras resting on an ice wine donut (think upscale timbit)! Neither of us were able to finish our mains; my Cumbrae pork chop with overly salty fingerling potatoes, bacon and asparagus had me reaching for my water glass constantly! Mom's lamb shank with autumn vegetables was tasty but just too big, so she gladly took home a doggy bag. The manager followed up on my "too salty" comment by rechecking on us, though he didn't offer an alternative, possibly because I downplayed the problem.

    Dessert entertained us with "A Tribute to Timmies" consisting of 3 perfectly crumbed apple slice fritters and a tiny apple cider "cappuccino", which delighted my coffee-averse companion. Lovely caramel cheesecake topped with salty peanut ice cream unfortunately drove me over the edge, as grasping for my water glass, I vowed never to eat so much salt again. Dinner for two before tax came to $96; we didn't order wine because I was driving back to Toronto and Mom doesn't drink. Overall, despite the salty flaws, we rated it higher than Tony De Luca's, and gave it a generous 8/10. After the meal, James took us into the kitchen, where Mrs. Treadwell greeted us like old friends and Chef Treadwell pointed out the 2-4 person Chef's Table for future meals "not for the faint of heart". We would definitely return. They offer 3 courses for $48, 4 courses (including cheese) for $56, and tasting menu for $75. Great value!

    5 Replies
    1. re: Food Tourist

      Upon reflection, Treadwell is not "great value". The ingredients (lamb shank, pork chop, pickerel, whitefish, chicken) used in the main courses are fairly commonplace. Any exotic mains presented as the special of the day, in this case ribeye steak, came with a surcharge. The worst example is the regular menu foie gras appetizer that had a $14 upgrade charge! Even daily special appetizer mussels (cheap, right?) cost $4 more! Yes, Treadwell is cheaper than Tony De Luca's at Oban Inn, but neither are great value.

      I'm changing the score to 7.5 out of 10. Sorry!

      1. re: Food Tourist

        I guess this opens up a whole range of argument about what goes into "value". One thing I will say about Treadwell is that he is uncompromising about the quality and freshness of his ingredients. It's not just any pork chop or chicken breast from a generic supplier: it is something sourced with care. His attention to this costs him money, and I think that it is part of the value that he provides. He recently did an event as a guest chef for a cooking club I am involved in, and even with chicken breast as our main, we had trouble staying within our normal ingredient budget because the product was so pricey. That said, it was the best damned chicken breast I've ever tasted.

        1. re: Gourmando

          Yes, it was a Cumbrae pork chop, and I'm sure quality is high at Treadwell. That being said, it seems to be a trend to charge more for less. In many cases (usually higher-priced restaurants in Toronto), it's obvious that they are skimping on expensive ingredients in favour of paying the high rent, which is understandable, but still not good value for my money.

          The pork chop I ate in early July at Peninsula Ridge restaurant in Beamsville was actually much tastier than Treadwell's -- Cumbrae or not.

          1. re: Food Tourist

            The only pork on Peninsula Ridge's menu right now is Berkshire pork tenderloin. Now THAT is good pork!

            Pass the salt...;-)

            1. re: Gourmando

              Ah, that explains it! (I don't remember if it was Berkshire or not, however!)

    2. Had a phenomenal lunch at Treadwell's yesterday with a group for a family celebration. It is a really nice space with some great water views and lots of small nooks so although it is a large restaurant, it doesn't feel that way. The small bar area would be a great spot for a pre-dinner cocktail or a nightcap.

      We all thought the canola/blueberry oil combo mentioned above was great - very nutty and different. We also had a few orders of the prosciutto, pear and arugula appetizer to share. Very simple and nicely done.

      Three of us had the fish and chips, which came with two large pieces of deep fried fish and a very large cone of extremely good fries - nice and dark. One had the deconstructed shepherd's pie, which sounds and looks a bit strange - a cup of a seasoned ground beef/veggie mixture with a pommery cheddar mash on the side. But, she said it was tasty. Another hit the soup and sandwich of the day - a creamy and lemony potato/mussel chowder with a sweet and sour duck baguette sandwich. The "BLT" came with confit of chicken that was silky soft and very much like duck confit, and was served with crispy prosciutto, oven baked tomato, and a bunch of other yummy condiments on Fred's potato foccaccia. I normally find chicken boring and bland and this was anything but. My husband had what looked to be the winner of the day - pork belly with two giant diver scallops in a very complex hoisin-based sauce. There was an exellent cheese plate for dessert with a good portion of a few unique cheeses (including some local ones I'd never heard of that were quite tasty). The warm chocolate cake also got good reviews, although it was served with a vanilla(?) sauce that made everything quite goopy. All of the dishes showed a great attention to detail and freshly sourced ingredients.

      Lunch for 7 with 3 bottles of wine (the excellent Legends 2002 Chard) was $360. Service was top notch - warm and efficient. The place was mostly empty (it was a weekday) and I really hope more people discover it to keep them going during the off-season. Highly recommended if you are in the area or on your way to/from NOTL.

      1. Enjoyed a fantastic dinner at the chef's table in the Treadwell kitchen on Christmas Eve. Our family of 5 squeezed around the table, and were treated to an excellent 7-course ($75) tasting menu with surprisingly impressive all-Niagara wine pairings. Everything was a hit; even Dad, the original hard-to-please gourmand in our family, was impressed and wants to return soon.

        Amuse: shot of parsnip foam soup topped with togarashi and accompanied by a sparkling wine that I believe was from Thirty Bench. However, it may well have been 13th Street Wine Co.'s Premier Cuvee, "G.H. Funk Vineyard".
        Usual breads and canola oil/blueberry vinegar.

        1. Duck 3 ways (foie gras on brioche, terrific confit terrine, and prosciutto with apricot, plus quince preserve).
        2002 Vidal, "Select Late Harvest", Daniel Lenko

        2. A single, perfect dry-packed scallop with apple puree and walnut foam.
        2004 Riesling, "Rosomel Vineyard", Fielding Estate

        Alternative: Squash gnocchi with shiitake "ermite" and burnt lemon cream (my BIL is allergic to seafood)
        2003 Chardonnay, "Beamsville Bench", Tawse

        3. Lake Erie pickerel, with delicious "lyonnaise" onions, slightly dull potato confit, and gruyere parsley foam.
        HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT: 2002 Chardonnay, "Reserve", Legends Estate
        I don't prefer chardonnay but this amazing one converted me!

        Alternative: "Mushrooms on Toast" with wine as above.

        4. Roasted beets with ricotta, dill and saffron vinaigrette.
        2004 Pinot Noir, Tawse

        5. Perfectly-cooked Cumbrae beef short rib with truffle parsnip puree and tarragon jus.
        2003 Cabernet Franc, Lailey

        6. Montgomery cheddar and tomme de chevre with tomato chili jam
        2005 "Old Vines Foch", Malivoire
        I dislike chevre, but this hard goat cheese was terrific.

        7. Bittersweet chocolate molten cake with delicious ginger ice cream. Hasn't anyone told the pastry chef that molten cake is so 3 years ago?
        INSPIRED MATCH: Oatmeal Stout, "St. Ambroise", McAuslan Breweries

        Alternative: Must-try sticky toffee pudding with very good date ice cream (Mom doesn't eat chocolate, and I don't waste my time on molten chocolate cake!
        )NV Sherry, "East India Solera", Lustau

        James and Stephen treated us to excellent service, but did not bring any "extras" or samples outside the set menu, which was slightly disappointing. However, it was memorable and delicious, and we would definitely return. The generously-poured wines and huge dessert ensured that I was still affected during Midnight Mass!

        2 Replies
        1. re: Food Tourist

          looking at your listed wines/vineyards, not entirely surprised they impressed you. some of the best wine coming out of notl is in the beamsville bench area, really fantastic. still not as full bodied and tannin based as most people i know like, but very very nice nonetheless. thirty bench is definitely one of my faves, although tawse tasted like pure petrol when they opened... i hope they're improving.

          was your multi course meal a specially put together for your family or a set menu for the holiday festivities?

          1. re: pinstripeprincess

            I believe it was their usual tasting menu.

        2. Would you happen to know the "personals" of the duck you were dining on? I really would appreciate that information. TIA.


          4 Replies
          1. re: HarryLloyd

            We weren't told the name of the duck supplier. Is this what you mean? On their website, there is a list of their suppliers, so perhaps that would be a good start:
            Sounds like it is most likely Le Ferme.

            1. re: HarryLloyd

              Thank you all for your comments.

              HarryLloyd, The duck is from La Ferme. The Duck Confit Terrine has a little bit of pork belly in it as well. The apricots with the "prosciutto" are preserved in house with sugar syrup, vanilla, and chili.

              Pinstripeprincess, I couldn't agree with you more in terms of the wines from the Beamsville Bench. There are some spectacular wineries up there, and there are more about to open shortly. Saying that, there are some fantastic wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Davids areas. Since we are doing our best to promote the local artisan growers/farmers/producers, it seems only right to do so with the wines. Fortunately, the many talented winemakers we have in Niagara make my job very easy. Every so often I'll showcase an international wine or two on the Tasting Menu, but I'll always give the guest the option to have local wines too.

              Food Tourist, I'm glad you enjoyed everything (although, i'm a little concerned about your views on the molten cake - while I'll agreee that molten cake has been around for quite some time, I believe that our take on a "classic" (i guess)with the candied ginger ice cream is interesting, and it has been the only dessert that has stayed on the menu since day one. Saying that, I'm glad you enjoyed the family's sticky toffee pudding. As I said that evening, if you do go to Legends Estate, please don't buy all the chardonnay, as I need to get a couple of cases when I get back from holiday.

              Just to let you all know that the restaurant is closed until Feb. 1st as Chef is in Mexico, and I'm in Burgundy/South Africa.


              1. re: niagara_wine_guy

                Welcome to the board, Niagara Wine Guy!
                My issue with molten chocolate cake is that many of us have made it at home with success. If you advertise that you make it with fancy chocolate such as Valrhona it might be more impressive, but really what I want is an unusual dessert that I can't find at other restaurants or wouldn't think of making at home. If you put the candied ginger in the chocolate cake, then we'd have a new take on a "classic"! That being said, you need to worry about profit over the opinion of a handful of chowhounds, and people like my BIL live and die for molten chocolate cake (thanks for serving him two that night!) However, even President's Choice sells a frozen version so it's mainstream now.
                Bon Voyage!

                1. re: Food Tourist

                  Food Tourist,

                  Nonetheless, I'm glad that you and your family enjoyed everything (although we just had a very good review from the Buffalo News, and the reviewer stated that the Sticky Toffee Pudding was "mildly disappointing"...oh well can't impress everyone).

                  I forgot to mention yesterday about Pinstripeprincess's comment on Tawse's wines. While I have been incredibly impressed by the quality coming from Tawse, I have heard several times from customers about Tawse wines having an "off" or "faulty" taste to it. While I don't believe it should be consider a "fault", I agree that Tawse wines over the past 3 vintages have had a "uniqueness" to it. Their previous winemaker, Deborah Paskus, does have a reputation for using unique (by Niagara standards) viticulture and maturation techniques. I remember when we carried the 03 Lincoln Lakeshore Pinot Noir from Tawse, and it having an "almost too-Burgundian to be from Ontario" aroma of cloves, cinnamon, tomato, and sour cherry. But its colour was so tawny for a 2 1/2 year old wine, that something wasn't right. I thought it was brilliant, but thats the great thing about wine: its totally subjective (although yesterday, a winemaker in Pernand Vergelesses scoffed at my tasting notes of one of his young wines). Tawse's new consulting winemaker, Pascal Marchand, is from Montreal but has worked as winemaker at many estates in Burgundy (including Vougeraie - i'm going there today, and Comte d'Armand.) Perhaps you'll see a difference in the 2006 wines.