Reader Rock Garden - Calgary
Just had dinner at the Reader Rock Garden Restaurant. It's newly open and still suffering from some growing pains. It's located south of the Stampede grounds near the cemetary on Macleod. Like Rouge and The Ranche, it's a historical type building with some nice garden around it.
They have no air conditioning, credit cards or a wine list at the moment - so be wary. I think everything but the AC is going to change however.
You can definitely trace the Dwayne Ennest in the food - lots of comfort elements like garlic mashed potatos, sweet potato rosti and so forth. I was with two other diners, and we all ordered appetizer salads - one asparagus and beet, and a couple tomato salad with a chevre pannacotta. They were pretty good.
We ordered a couple of sparkling wines, two as cocktails - not cold, unadorned and rather sad in less then polished glasses. Once bitten, twice shy - however water was not terribly forth coming despite the indoor, no air conditioned heat.
Our main courses trickled out - A striploin, a salmon and a trout. The salmon was a 4oz, which is a bit wee for a dinner menu, but nicely done I'm told - oddly enough, it came with the same side dish as the striploin, garlic mashed potatos in a big rammiken (the plating isn't terribly dialed in as of yet). The trout was nicely done - though I love a bit more texture in the skin. The striploin was atrocious however - hotel buffet reheated to a medium. If you have one beef entree on your menu, you ought to do it right, and you ought to be able to serve it at a temperature of your guests choosing. It was a sadder version of the veal meatloaf from diner deluxe, with a broken pan sauce that looked like dish water.
Our momentum waning, we went for dessert. Two Lemon Tarts with blueberries and one Chocolate Walnut cake with sour cherries. The tarts were alright but looked fairly canned and pressed. The "Chocolate Walnut cake" was a brownie with some whip cream. I understood it to be a sort of TV Dinner deconstructed Black Forest Cake. However, none of it's components really hit the mark, and we left on an underwhelmed, overheated note.
Hopefully with some time and energy Reader Rock Garden will step up to the mark - it's setting and location certainly earn their keep (with the exception of the AC). Hopefully enough of the Big Fish influence will fade away, and the dinner portions will scale up. Nice but I doubt I will return without seeing some changes to the menu.
Visited Reader Rock Garden resraurant a couple of years ago and was also underwhelmed. I only ordered a dessert. It was o.k. but not great particularly for the price. I also ordered iced tea. What I got was simply cold tea in a glass period, costing probably 3 cents as the quantity received could have been made from half a tea bag,This cost me 2.50. When I was asked if I wanted a refill I said yes not thinking I would be charged another 2.50 because of what the cold tea was, but I was charged another 2.50. I have been to the gardens since but never to the restaurant.
UPDATE on Reader Rock Gardens:
I had dinner there last week and I believe much has improved since your visit and review...
Firstly what a beautiful place to enjoy a meal, starting with the lovely stroll up the stairs through the reestablish gardens, this is the best starter a foodie could ask for, seeing fresh herbs, sweet peas and veg bursting from the grounds of the restaurant you are about to try!
I dinned with a table of 9 and (for a change) there were no complaints all around! I sampled a few of the dishes and my starter a baby spinach salad with goat cheese pine nuts and huge fresh blackberries was perfect! For dinner I had the duck which was cooked more well done than I usually enjoy but was moist and wonderful, perfectly seasoned with a crisp seared edge. The salmon was a huge serving and perfectly cooked a little rare.
We all enjoyed the wine list and left having enjoyed the evening from the moment we parked the cars to the moment we drove away. The setting of this establishment is in the home of Mr. Reader the founder of Calgary's Parks and Rec, a passionate gardener and the restaurant has a few volumes of photo albums showing the property back in 1904 through to it's revival to the current day. I left Readers Rock Garden with a new respect for the settlers of this city and the contributions they made to the spaces we enjoy so much now.
This is a lovely place to enjoy.