The Church restaurant- Stratford
My boyfriend and I had a lovely dinner at the Church on saturday after a matinee of The Music Man. I have been to the Belfry before a few years back but hadn't had the opportunity to have a full meal in the dining room until this weekend.
The room: For those who havent been , the Church restaurant was built in a beautiful old church. The organ has been transformed into a large wine wall and the room is very "open concept" with very private and separated tables. I personally really like this, this is not a "hip" restaurant by any means, so the openness and space the room provides ensures that you can comfortably have a good conversation without feeling like everyone will hear you. I also should note that the coloured stain glass windows allowed for some really beautiful natural lighting.
The service: We were served by a really nice young gentleman who was extremely accomodating with my boyfriends wine allergy. However, he was maybe not as well informed of the kitchens/ bars offerings as he could have been. Eg. My boyfriend originally asked for a Mojito (not a complicated or unusual cocktail even though the church is definetly a place for wine, which my boyfriend cant have). The server assured us that it could be done and returned because they apparently had no mint. No big deal. But things like this kept happening. Like my boyfriend asked what types of Port they had and after listing quite a few and my boyfriend having made a selection, he returned to tell us that they actually only had one and it wasn't one that my boyfriend was very fond of. Just a small detail I suppose, but just be warned, if you dont like wine, there arent many other options here.
The food: The menu is organized into a 4 course tasting menu where you choose one selection from each of 4 menus: An amuse, an app, a main and a dessert. I also opted for the optional wine pairings with the courses.
For the first course, my boyfriend had the Blonde Frisée and Pear Salad with crisp Serrano Ham, Cabrales and Walnut Cream which he basically inhaled so I didnt get to try it. I opted for the Herbed Scallop ‘linguine’ served atop of Grilled Octopus ‘bacon’, with Heirloom Radish and Roasted Watermelon and Yuzu and Smoked Soy. This was a very interesting dish. The watermellon was a nice balance from the saltiness of the octopus bacon and the interesting little jello bites made out of soy.
For second course, the boyfriend had a Braised Lamb Tortellini which was served with peas and carrots and a light and delicate Gold Beetroot Consommé broth was poured on top tableside. I didnt get much of chance to try this one either but it smelled delicious. I had the Pan Seared Québec Foie Gras with Gingerbread Gnocchi, Rhubarb and Black Fennel and Ginger and Braeburn Apple Gastrique. The Foie Gras portion was huge, I could barely finish it, and it was served with 3 sweet Gnocchi that went perfectly with both the Apple gastrique and the Rhubarb compote like sauce. It was also served with a spoonfull of housemade Rhubarb pop rocks (yes, like those things that explode in your mouth and sound like rain haha). I could definetly not eat this dish everyday but it was a really special plate.
For mains, boyfriend had the Quebec Rabbit in Several Preparations (Saddle with Lobster and Lemongrass, Rack with Cauliflower and Peas and Leg with Green Curry Consommé)
Once again I didnt try it, but he proclaimed it was delicious. My only compaint about the plate was the lack of colour. It was all just a dull grey colour which did not make it very appealing to the eye (unlike my Foie Gras plate). I had the Pan Roasted Beef Tenderloin
with Bone Marrow Flan, Leek Fondue and Morel, Red Wine and Foie Gras Broth. This was so perfect. Four small pieces of beef surrounding an incredibly creamy bone marrow flan. With its butter like consistency, it just melted over the beef and complimented it perfectly.
For dessert, my boyfriend had the Rhubarb tasting which had a very sweet rhubarb syrup pop type drink, a rhubarb cake and was supposed to have a champagne and rhubarb sorbet but my boyfriend couldn't have that due to his allergy so they just increased the portions of the other two. The cake was a bit grainy tasting, it seemed to be made with some type of barley or rice, but cream sauce on top helped sweeten it up. I had the White Chocolate and Yogurt Mille-Feuille with Roasted Fig Marmalade, Gingerbread Snap which was very lovely. The yogurt in the mille-feuille helped neutralize the sweetness of the white chocolate so that it was still sweet, but not overly so.
Dinner ended with a selection of housemade truffles, the standout being the white chocolate apricot (as if I hadn't eaten enough sugar with dessert, the foie gras dish and the 2 different ice wines included in my tasting menu. I just couldnt resist.)
With the 2 90$ tasting menus, wine pairings for one, a beer and a port, the bill was about $ 300 after tax, before tip. I know some people say this place is overpriced or overrated but I definetly enjoyed my meal and experience and will be returning next theatre season for another special meal.
The Emperor Has No Food:
For $300 we got 5 tortellini (nothing special), 3 1-inch in diameter beef tips (tough), a red mullet about the size of a sunny my kid might have caught (unexciting), a spoonful of linguine, and a very small portion (1/8 cup?) of rabbit (tasty).
The Church is like a parody of the haute cuisine restaurants of the 70s. Save your money and get better food elsewhere in Stratford.
I was recently at The Belfry (the bar at the Church that also serves dinner), and while we enjoyed it, it was too expensive and the menu more than a little pretentious. Our waiter spent 5 minutes explaining the words we didn't know. While I'd hardly describe myself as a foodie, and don't eat out as often as I like, I was a bit put off by the linguistic smoke and mirrors. My intention is to post a longer review later, so I'll leave it at that.
Hm, I admit that the portions were not huge, but we left feeling satisfied enough and I felt it was good value for the wine pairings. However, I will definetly have to compare it to Stratfords other high-end offerings. With regards to the Belfry, my experience there a few years back. The prices were much too high for the tiny little portions we got. I dont recall any tricky pretentious servers, but I did find the Belfry a bit too stuffy for the quality.