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Jul 6, 2008 05:57 PM

Help me w/ NOTL Planning..

My boyfriend has left the planning up to me.. and Im not sure where to start.. I have read ALL of the posts I could find on NOTL and am not sure which restaurants would be best for dinner, and which for lunch, brunch etc... Right now we have no other plans other than the fact that we'll be staying most likley at the Peller and Post. Money is no object. We would prefer to stay in NOTL as apposed to driving out farther to eat. I need advice on:
At least 2 lunches
At least 2 dinners (both should be fairly high end, the best of NOTL in your opinion, possibly a tasting menu )
Any extra bites, brunches, breakfasts you think we should check out.

Thanks ahead of time!! Anything you can tell me would help

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  1. I would definitely put Inn on the Twenty on your list for dinner or lunch. Although it is a short drive from NOTL the town of Jordan is very quaint and a stop. We've had many meals at Inn on the Twenty and everything has been top notch. Beautiful room and surroundings too....enjoy!

    1 Reply
    1. Have dinner at the Stone Road Grill -- it's fantastic. For an inexpensive lunch or just an excellent piece of pie, stop by The Pie Plate, just outside of NOTL in Virgil. It's not far from town at all.

      If you feel like a picnic along the Niagara Parkway, stop in the Epicurean (right on the main drag) and pick up some wonderful food to go.

      Avoid The Buttery, The Shaw Cafe and pretty much most of the other restaurants on the main drag. They are either overpriced or just plain bad.

      BTW, I think you're mixing up Peller Estates winery with the Pillar and Post Inn. :)

      4 Replies
      1. re: TorontoJo

        haha thats right. Thanks for clearing that up... Can you recommend anywhere for a big tasting menu dinner?

        1. re: hungryabbey

          We tried Treadwell's last week and had a delightful evening. Perhaps I should have started a new thread, but this one seems reasonably appropriate.

          A Saturday at 7:00 dinner reservation was no problem. The outdoor patio was busy, but it was only half full inside. We got a warm welcome and were led to a perfect table toward the back. The view, in two directions along the water, was serene and beautiful.

          Service throughout the meal was mixed. The staff was all friendly and accommodating, and a sense of humour seemed to be encouraged. Service was well paced over about 2 1/2 hours. However, it is fair to note that things were more amateurish and less informed than we'd expect at a place of this caliber. Our server was hesitant to even mention the daily special, which was a rabbit dish, indicating a combination of squeamishness and a concern about possible customer reactions.

          They quickly offered a choice of still, sparkling, or tap water and brought some excellent bread with cold pressed canola and "blueberry balsamic". The blueberries weren't detectable, but the oil & vinegar were tasty.

          The amuse was a whitefish ceviche type of preparation. It was fine, though we are not ceviche fanatics.

          The menu offers a choice of a three or four course prix fie, a tasting menu, or a la carte. This isn't exactly as implied, since the two prix fixe meals are simply the total of the a la carte prices. Most starters are $10, mains are $35, and "puddings" are $10.

          The six course tasting menu ($85; $125 with wine pairings) contained dishes from the regular menu (presumably in smaller portions) and sounded tempting, but we both thought this would be too much food. We decided on three courses each, but portions were generous and filling, we had some extras, and we ended up sharing one dessert.

          For starters, we chose "tempura of dave irish’s zucchini blossoms with green curry mayonnaise" and "potato and spinach gnocchi with smoked ricotta, wild garlic, parmesan foam, toasted almonds". Both were delicious, though neither was perfect.

          The zucchini blossoms were not stuffed and were still attached to baby zucchinis. The tempura coating was crisp and hot. However, one blossom released a spurt of hot oil when bitten. Though it didn't burn, and the oil was not yucky, we could have done without this unintended surprise. The remaining pieces were fine. The zucchinis themselves were perfect. The green curry mayo had no taste of green curry. It was more like a spicy tartar sauce. Whatever it was, it was a fine foil for the zucchini.

          The gnocchis themselves were flawless, with a cloudlike texture and no hint of pastiness. The total dish had wonderful flavours, but was too complex to be completely successful. There was cheesy foam, smoky cheese, lots of nuts, a couple of shoots, and a large portion of green peas. Every element was perfect, but it would have been better if a few things had been left out.

          We ordered three oz wine pairings with the starters. I'm embarrassed to have forgotten what we had, since both were excellent white wines (one a "semi dry") that we wouldn't have chosen on our own.

          For mains, we chose "grain-fed chicken breast with monforte goats cheese
          olive oil forked fingerlings, roasted chicken and horseradish jus" and "pesto crusted cumbrae farms lamb rack chop, housemade linguini, chorizo and fava beans, mint jus".

          The chicken dish was surprising. The perfectly cooked, juicy chicken breast came in an intense dark brown jus, strongly flavoured with wild mushrooms and a hint of horseradish. The "forked fingerlings" were really fancy "smashed" potatoes. All in all, an excellent dish.

          The lamb was also an unusual dish. It was served with linguini, a "succotash" made of fava beans, and an interesting jus (not tasting of the specified mint). My wife described the go-withs as exceptional, but there were some flaws. She said that the chorizo, though fine on its own terms, punctuated the dish with overwhelming flavour zaps that detracted rather than enhanced. The lamb itself, while not actually flawed, was merely ordinary. We've had lamb racks at home from both Cumbrae's and the New Zealand lamb people that were more tender and flavourful.

          Though we hardly needed more food, we split two sides. The "pommes frites with rosemary sea salt" ($6) were absolutely perfect. Beets seem to be suddenly trendy, and the "roasted summer beets with monforte chevre and hazelnuts" ($8, also available as a starter) didn't disappoint.

          The wine pairings, two reds this time (and again forgotten) were, again, excellent. The chicken came with a much more intense red than the lamb, and the wine suited perfectly. (I learned something new from this chicken dish.) We ordered three oz, but these pours were definitely more generous.

          The pre-dessert, some housemade macaroons, were yummy. We were really too full for anything else, but we split the "bittersweet chocolate molten cake with storosko’s basil ice cream". The chocolate cake (I know, a cliche) was perfect. The basil ice cream was a revelation. (In hindsight, given the kinship of basil and mint, it shouldn't have been surprising.) I will make this at home. Coffee was good, though not glorious.

          One oddity: we found the "Schott Zwiesel glassware" quite weird. The four wines were served in four different types of wine glass. It was awkward to drink from the glasses in which the reds were served. Drinking from the two white wine glasses was actually difficult.

          1. re: embee

            thanks so much for the review Embee. Its funny, I JUST finished reading through the entire menu as I plan my own trip and its a possibility for dinner. The gnocchi would be a must for me if I were to go so Im glad you reviewed it. Thanks!

            1. re: embee

              Great review.
              We were there at the end of June and went for the 6-course tasting menu (with wine). Service was very good for us (also on a Saturday evening - but at 5:00). Some overlap (naturally) but the differences also validate that this is indeed 'Farm-to-table' - they use whatever is fresh. We were before the full fruit season, so there were some repeats in ingredients (e.g strawberries appeared a few times - even in the savoury dishes). But overall we were very impressed and on our next visit to Niagara, Treadwell will certainly be our #1 choice. We also liked their 'rationale' for the wine pairings. Not everything worked but there was always a reason for the choice, which was always related to us.
              My only criticism would be a lack of follow-up by the staff on how we liked the food/wines - which potentially fails to provide feedback allowing the kitchen to improve even further. But that's their issue - not mine! (And if/when I provide feedback anywhere it's equally likely to cause friction, so if the restaurant doesn't want fedback, then why bother to ask).
              Overall an excellent meal - probably the best I've had in Niagara.

        2. Note that things can change drastically from year to year in NOTL. Only the Epicurean has been consistently good for many years, and then only for their cafeteria style lunches.

          I'd recommend the Epicurean for lunch. The bars at the Pillar & Post and Prince of Wales have some interesting sandwiches and other good food. The Prince bar in particular is a lovely place with a corner patio. We've also had some good light meals at the Riverbend Inn bar. Most of the vineyard restaurants serve lunch and are very nice. We've found Peller to be best. The golf club has a nice setting on the water and decent (not great) food. I've also heard good things about Queenston Heights Restaurant, but can't recommend it from personal experience. There's an unpretentious tea room behind the Irish Shop clothing store that is decent and very reasonable for a quick bite. It is extremely unprepossessing, though. Tea at the Prince of Wales is nice, but terribly expensive for what you get. There's quite good gelato and fresh fruit smoothies at the espresso cafe on Queen St (the ice cream places and bakeries are all blah).

          For dinner the consistency issue is front and centre. Stone Road was unequivocally best for several years, but got very mixed reviews from some people with decent palates when we were in NOTL just yesterday. We've had good (even great) experiences at Zee's for dinner, though others haven't been so lucky. I don't recommend Zee's for lunch. We've had good luck at Peller and Strewn. We do not recommend Hillebrand (others disagree strongly). I do not think the food at the main Vintage Inn restaurants (Pillar/Post, Prince of Wales, Queens Landing) is worth the prices they charge. Tony DeLuca at the Oban can cook well, though this doesn't mean he will.

          Moving slightly out of town, Treadwell's in Port Dalhousie (20 minutes) is extremely good. I'll review it within the next few days. This is also much closer than Inn on the Twenty, which I used to recommend but no longer do. When Treadwell was chef at Queen's Landing a few years ago, he served one of the best tasting menus I've ever eaten. The Culinary Institute (QEW at Glendale) is a sometimes rewarding risk. Epicurean at dinner is good, but not very interesting.

          Whatever you do, avoid the Shaw Cafe, The Buttery, and Estria on Queen St.

          4 Replies
          1. re: embee

            Embee's given a very good run through the options. One that has not yet been mentioned is Tony de Luca's restaurant at the Oban Inn. I would suggest that for the "high end tasting menu". His other restaurant, the Old Winery, has a beautiful patio for wood oven pizzas at lunchtime.

            1. re: Gourmando

              actually, tony de luca sneaks in right at the end of the main paragraph ;)

              i will be a strong disagree-er and suggestion hillebrand for an evening tasting menu. by far this was the most exceptional tasting meal i have had in the notl region and would go back if my cash flow could take it. it is also the only one that i remember quite vividly and i have quite the fleeting memory. my only concern would be that i felt quite a bit "upsold" on the alcohol and the service was more friendly than serious. so it depends on what you're looking for. i couldn't sneak a recipe out of the chef but the server did virtually tear the menu from the leather binding for me to take home.

              peller is full of pomp and circumstance and the food is good but not great. i wouldn't really suggest it. stewn was a bit more in the budget category (for notl, of course) and was quite delightful i'm not sure that a tasting menu would be the way to go there. stunning atmosphere on their back patio though.

              stone road grille would be for something just a touch more casual, the noise and setting don't really match what they're trying to do on the plate, though it is delicious and definitely reasonable for the neighbourhood.

              1. re: Gourmando

                I went to Tony de Luca's restaurant at the Oban Inn last night for dinner. My husband and I are in the restaurant business and we wanted to go to a nice place to celebrate our anniversary and not cook for a change. We also wanted to be able to bring our own wine because my husband has been stashing away some very nice wines that we wanted to uncork. We were not disappointed. The food and the service were both excellent. Tony wasn't cooking last night, but the Chef, Mike, did a great job. My husband had the duck confit starter; which was very nicely done. I had the ocean trio featuring smoked trout, octopus and tuna; a very nice presentation. For mains, we had the veal tenderloin and the grouper. Both were excellently prepared and to my surprise were much larger servings than I had expected. This was followed by artisanal cheeses and dessert. The four courses, including cheese was a bargain at $65.00. Highly recommended.

              2. re: embee

                Great summary.
                Just so I don't have to say "me too" I'll add that a recent meal at Treadwell was one of my finest this year. IMO absolutely the best meal I've had in Niagara - but about a 20 minute drive from NOTL (as mentioned - along Lakeshore). It also takes you right by Strewn (La Cachette), where I've also had excellent meals.

              3. Peller estates restaurant for either lunch or dinner; Pie Plate for brunch and take out for a picnic; Epicurean on Queen St for dinner on the patio or take out for a picnic; Tony at the Oban for dinner or lunch; The Old Winery for their patio; Stone Road Grill for lunch or dinner (no patio); Hillebrand for dinner overlooking the vines; Jackson Triggs Winery for snacks overlooking the vines; check out South Brook winery on Highway 55, they might be doing pizza on their patio; Pillar and Post has a lovely garden/swimming pool where you can have lunch but avoid their dinner altogether; sorry to report can't recommend a single place for breakfast, but as I said the Pie Plate has good baked goods; on Sat and Sun morning until 12 noon the market on Hwy 55 in front of the Shoppers might have some stalls with baked good and always has somebody selling the freshest, local produce also god for a picnic; Ginger Restaurant on Lakeshore for excellent, high end Chinese. Whatever you do avoid at all costs Wellington Court in St. Catharines, it's vastly overrated, hideously decorated and the service is meh. You'll have a great time, say hi from me!

                1. If you're picknicking, Stone Road Grille also has a takeout counter with pizza deliver (imagine duck confit with caramelized onions and potatos) and gourmet sandwiches.

                  Epicurean turns from deli to sit-down restaurant in the evenings, and has some of the best value food in the area.

                  The patio at the Queen's Landing, which is off the bar and overlooks the harbour, is a good spot to relax, and you don't need to sell a kidney to pay for the more reasonable menu.