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Ceili Cottage- Report

Our party of four went on Friday, July 3; the place was packed, with a few empty tables. Clearly, they were slammed: no sauces available for our oysters, a 30+ minute wait to be served beer, and a 50 minute wait for any food.

The food- oysters, sausage with mac and cheese, smoked salmon, several salads and shaved ham, were superb, tasty and fresh, laden with bright flavours, unlike heaty, greasy pub fare.

Once Patrick McMurray shakes down his ship, all should be a delight. In the meantime, I wish he'd buy a few barrels of pretzels to hurl the way of famished diners waiting and waiting. We were not even brought bread or water by the very sweet and very inexperienced waitress.

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  1. It's new enough that I'm going to give it some time before I go. I think it wholly irresponsible of the Globe to run a review so early. That said, I think the picture they ran with it tells you everything you need to know at the moment. Tables devoid of food, people fidgeting and waiting, and not one happy face. Everyone, even the best restaurateurs including Patrick McMurray, should be given time before a major paper reviews them.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Googs

      I saw the picture and you're perhaps looking too much into it. It's just a typical picture of a room accompanying a restaurant review.

      I have not been, but it sounds very promising.

      1. re: aser

        To be clear, aser, I too think it's promising. I have every faith that it will be a great place with good service. I think the G&M jumped the gun on reviewing McMurray's new place in order to get the newspaper scoop.

        If that picture were typical of a Toronto dining room I'd be spending more evenings at home.

        1. re: Googs

          Suspect the G&M felt bound to dredge up something positive amidst the general gloom hovering over the TO resto market .Wonder how long the owners/backers will pour money into this iffy joint?

          1. re: Kagemusha

            I'm pretty sure the owner, Patrick, will be putting in his all. He seemed quite in love with the space (he'd mentioned that he'd been eying the property for a while now), and the space is jointly shared (rented?) with the Irish dancing school in the back (his kids go there too).

            I really think that the pub is far from "iffy" - I think it will be highly successful with the neighbourhood. I don't know how it'll fare in the winter, (the space inside is pretty small, I think), but like Googs, I really feel this place has a lot of potential. One strong point in its favour is its late hours and that we were told they would serve as long as they were open, which is really nice. The down side is that they won't get the bulk of core downtowners driving out all the way Queen East to take advantage of it.

            Haven't seen the photo mentioned. Going to go take a look-see now... (edit: only a small shot to be seen on the G&M site now... the main photo for the article is the smoked salmon dish).

            http://foodpr0n.com/ -- food. is. love.

            Ceili Cottage
            1301 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4L, CA

            1. re: jlunar

              How could an authentic Irish pub conceived by the guy behind Starfish, certainly one of the better seafood restaurants in town, be considered "Iffy"?

              I live about 30 seconds away, and every time I've passed by the patio is packed. Service issues aren't surprising given that the place has only be open for a week, but I think Patrick has earned some patience.

      2. re: Googs


        As it turns out, not really irresponsible. It is six months later, and nothing much has changed from the pic in the Globe. We have tried the Cottage now four times, and each time we've been, the service has gotten more lax, and they've always, ALWAYS, been out of something we wanted to eat. The last time it was the cottage pie, yes, a Saturday, but it was early in the evening, and Saturday IS supposed to be when you can get this item! Today they were out of kettle chips. Out, completely, and my twelve year old was starved. Also, I saw someone say don't go if you are hungry or need to be anywhere on a schedule. Got that right. We ordered the bangers and mash, scone and ham (this is not a cooked plate, mind you) and four grilled oysters. After sitting for more than a half hour, the waitress appeared and said we'd get our food soon and that they were "just shucking the oysters." Huh? Another 15 minutes crawled by, and when our food arrived, mine in particular, I was not impressed. Where was the panko on the grilled oysters? The dish was just this soupy, murky, shrunken cheesy disappointment, that was not grilled, but blandly placed under a broiler just to sort of heat it, or? Not sure what. When I asked about the panko, I got not one but two lectures in a loud, strident voice from the hostess, speaking to me as if I didn't know what a grilled oyster should taste or look like. She then added: "We don't do them like this at Starfish." Dear Googs, no restaurant should ever do them like that. What is so disappointing about the Ceili Cottage, is that I am an east ender, love Starfish, and had high hopes this pub would work out its kinks. It has not, and I suspect the lack of improvement has more to do with the owners, who maybe think us east enders should not expect the same standards as all those swanky downtown folk. Think again!

        Ceili Cottage
        1301 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4L, CA

        1. re: carlaspallette

          What's up with the ham and scone anyway? What a boring waste of money and chewing. My friend enjoyed the beef-of-the-day sandwich, however. (This was on a visit just before Christmas.)

      3. I made this comment in another post and in my blog, but: Don't go with a time-restraint. Don't be starving. Don't be needing to be anywhere afterwards. Do bring a magazine or paper or something to loiter with.

        I really did like the vibe and food, but it's just opened and I feel for the still-learning staff, both on the floor and in the kitchen. Look forward to future meals there.

        http://www.foodpr0n.com/ -- food. is. love.

        1. I've been looking forward to trying it since I first heard about Patrick's plans for a Leslieville pub but have had trouble with their hours. Their website clearly states that they're open for breakfast/brunch on Saturdays starting at 10:30 am (http://ceilicottage.com/hours.htm) but the past two weekends they had a sign out front saying they weren't opening until 5 pm (both times I stopped by around noon). After hearing some feedback, I may wait for a while until they sort out their service issues and establish more regular hours.

          3 Replies
          1. re: ms. clicquot

            Hmn. I had wanted to try their brunch at some point (soon). Good to note that I should call beforehand for the time being... Hope you weren't overly inconvenienced!

            1. re: ms. clicquot

              Last weekend their plumbing burst and they had to close while it was fixed.. maybe why they did not open early...

              1. re: OnDaGo

                i went on thursday night, fairly busy. Service was a little iffy, was not offered napkins, water or bread initially had to ask for all of the above so I hope they work out their kinks. The food was decent, had the malpeques (which were tasty but I think Starfish gets the better quality ones), kettle chips, and the peat salmon which was a hefty cut of the stuff, delicately smoked. For dessert I split the apple pie, uneventful pastry and apples were a little on the raw side. Good prices, I'm going back in a bit to see if things get cleaned up.

            2. Here's one big kink: Hubby & I went for Irish Breakfast today at about 1pm today and found them closed. I suggest to anyone going to call ahead. The hours posted on the website seem to reflect their intent rather than the current hours.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Googs

                Yeah I can confirm this, they seem to be opening at 5 every day. Those hankering for the full Irish would be well advised to wait a few weeks.

              2. Went there around 10:30PM on Friday. Beautiful evening for an after dinner patio bevy....just not at Ceili Cottage. Why you ask? Extremely low patio capacity...think empty tables that can't be utilised because of there liquor license. If this was not enough to deter, the 11:00PM (curfew) would suffice.

                It should be called Cinderella's Cottage as at the stroke of 11, everyone is ushered inside (or asked to leave) as the patio turns into a pumpkin. That being said, even Cinderella got to have fun until midnight! ;-)

                3 Replies
                1. re: Mis_Understated

                  Can't really blame the restaurant for the liquor laws. There are a lot of residential homes within hearing distance who probably don't want to hear patio noise late into the night. 11pm seems like a reasonable compromise between the interests of local residents and the pub.

                  1. re: Gary

                    Actually it is mostly commercial in the area with a few single apartments above store fronts.. most residential is off on side streets.. get more noise from street cars then patios... Lady beside the cottage had a petition circulated against her cafe for wanting a backyard patio for 20 seats and the cafe closes at 8pm and has no liquor licence!

                    just some medling people in the hood...

                    1. re: OnDaGo

                      I guess councillor Paula Fletcher really got her chops together on the whole Sound Academy/The Docks noise bylaw battle. Too bad she seems to be against fun. When will these guys realize that putting us out of business isn't in the best interest of the community?

                2. I'll have to time a visit for an open window, sounds interesting. And I'll bring a book. :)

                  1. I was excited to find this new pub in the area - I live 2 minutes for the Cottage, but wanted to give it some time to settle after opening before trying it. I was there twice in the last few weeks and have to say it was all of the worst of the above reports.

                    First time I was there with a friend on a wednesday, it wasn't really busy and we left after managing one pint in 45 minutes and no sign of being offered another or any food...

                    Second try Sunday, we had a party of four ignored for a full 15 minutes before being asked if we wanted a drink. A good 10 minutes before getting those drinks and then about an hour before we were served our food.

                    You can usually abide these problems when a place is busy as long as you're acknowledged in someway and brought a drink quickly... However, the two young girls serving on the patio I would guess have never worked in a pub before. Very polite though they were at the table, we were without drinks for 10 to 15 minutes every round, food was average at best (sunday roasts) then not cleared for ages... Patience was out at the third round of beers after which we then waited 20 minutes for the bill...

                    Of particular annoyance was the behaviour of what I percieved to be the two owners, who were far more concerned about whether we were leaving and how many people were on the patio than whether we were remotely happy with the service, drinks or food. Which we were not...

                    I hope it sorts itself out as it's a lovely patio to sit on and they've done a great job on the interior!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ILoveLeslieville

                      If they have 41 customers on the patio they could lose their liquor licence... LCBO restrictions farce them to have no more then 40 even though they could fit 60... I was there on Monday night but inside.. service was good but computers went down twice in the three hours we were there.. from the owners phone conversation with Tech support I guess this is a frequent occurance.. (may explain some of their issues)... I was told the kitchen is very tiny and gets easily overwhelmed.. not sure why they did not make it bigger as they build the place from scratch

                    2. I finally made it out to Ceili Cottage last night. The patio was a great vibe all around, it's a nice spot. We had a dozen tasty raw oysters - they only had Malpeques, which I guess is seasonal? - and some really addictive kettle chips with thyme. They were sadly out of peanuts, next time. Mains, my wife and I split the daily special mutton burger and 6 grilled oysters done 3 different ways, plus some greens in a great honey dressing. The burger was very mutton-y and gamey which I liked. Not much her thing though. I didn't much care for the bun though, which was rustic and wholegrain and a bit stiff. I would have preferred something with a bit more give to it, help sop up the burger juice. The grilled oysters were very good and I would order them again, but I found the Malpeques withered to a really small size with the heat. Certainly, these paled in comparison to the roasted oysters I ate at Cochon in New Orleans last month, but that's an really unfair comparison I suppose. Oh, and her sister had some mussels which were delicious. Plus the soda bread and butter was stunningly good, and I will seriously order a plate of bread and butter even if I'm only there for drinks.

                      So the food was good but certainly not mindblowing, and all told with tax and tip the bill was $140. Now of course we had 18 oysters and a few beers, so it wasn't going to be cheap, but you can eat at a lot of great places in this town for that kind of dough. I think Ceili will be a "beers and snacks" place for me. Especially come wintertime because the interior is just stunning.

                      Lastly, service. Not so great. Our redheaded server seemed to be channelling her inner bored teenager. Her sense of ennui and apathy got to be kind of funny. At one point I had a question, looked at her with menu it my hand, opened my mouth, and she just stared at me and then turned away. Ohhhkay - real passion for service there. Too bad because the Irish girl serving the other section seemed great, warm and funny. It's weird, I've had service issues in the past at Starfish too - seems like Patrick could really use some help on FOH matters.

                      Still, I'll be back, obviously a lot of love went into the place. Plus it's right by my house.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: childofthestorm

                        If soda bread actually requires butter, it isn't stunningly good. Did it?

                        1. re: Googs

                          No it didn't require it, it was very soft and moist. But the butter was freaking fantastic, not sure where they are sourcing it from, or if they're making it themselves. If I had had a ziploc I would have stolen the leftovers.

                      2. I've only dined at the Cottage once (on July 8) but my impression was that portions are "smaller than average" for the mains. The smoked salmon is incorrectly labelled as a main (it is and should be an appetizer based on portion size and contents). However, I'm looking forward to returning to see how things have progressed.

                        1. Does anyone have any recent news on Ceili Cottage? I'd like to try it out but waiting until all the kinks are out.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: foodyDudey

                            Went on Saturday. They have a fire out front where smokers and the adventurous can loiter to roast marshmallows and chestnuts (when the coals die out). Patrick (chef dude) was saying that they're pondering s'mores. I had two marshmallows, (just toasted) for an appetizer. The smell of the fire is so attractive, especially in the fall.

                            Food-wise, things are okay. Nothing to drive distances for, but if you're local, it's fine. What draws me to Ceili is the atmosphere. It's awesome, and the reason to go.

                            Also, I'm dying to try that "Full Irish" but though it's still on the menu, they're not serving it yet. *sob*

                            I'll post pictures up soon.

                            http:/www.foodpr0n.com/ -- food. is. love.

                            1. re: jlunar

                              The one thing that would make me travel from my neighbourhood to there and they're still not serving it. Great. It takes real nerve to serve the traditional dishes. Let me know when they have enough to serve a proper Irish Breakfast or the equally rare find of steak and kidney pie.

                              1. re: jlunar

                                JLunar, I completely agree with your review. We're in the 'hood so the Ceili quickly became our "local" and it's our go-to place when we meet friends for drinks and nibbles. Thing is, the food is decent. Just decent - for what you pay. But as you say - it's about the atmosphere and so in my estimation, it balances out. The place has such a great vibe (just like a pub in Dublin) and we always - always - have a great time.

                                And Patrick is to thank for a lot of that. He's such a wonderful host and really cares about your experience which is part of the reason why we're big fans of Starfish, too.

                                1. re: CanadaSweetheart

                                  Yeah, Patrick is really awesome at welcoming and just being host. I love what they're doing there as a whole and look forward to new things they try. I remember Patrick talking about a jazz pianist that came in and started randomly playing on the piano he has by the bar. The next time the guy came in, he brought a saxaphonist friend, (something to that effect).

                                  OH. I should mention - waitstaff seemed much improved. We're not talking crazy attentive, but certainly you're not stranded at your table.

                                  Full Irish though! I swear it's such a tease.

                                  http://www.foodpr0n.com/ -- food. is. love.

                                2. re: jlunar

                                  I've got a general Ceili blog post in the works, but in the meantime, the FULL IRISH IS IN! woo hoo! Photos and some intro banter are in the blog post. Otherwise:

                                  Ever since we spied this on the menu during our first visit, we were eager to have a taste of this hearty meal. Finally making its debut five months after opening, we sat in anticipation, hoping it was worth the wait.

                                  Let me start off with the not-so-good. While most people won’t eat blood sausage anyway, we were sad to see it was over-cooked and mealy. We’d had a really delicious example of it recently at Earth, so this was in stark contrast. Hope that they can fix that, since the rest? Well, it’s really awesome.

                                  Of everything on the plate, the banger was best executed – juicy, lightly spiced, and a strong pork flavour. Really quite excellent. The rashers and mushrooms were decent – tasty, nothing too remarkable. Bonus taste-points go to the roasted tomato – a really nice savoury/umami hit. I found the pancake-like potato farl a good item to help wipe my plate clean. But my personal favourite were the beans. They reminded me of when I was a kid and the breakfasts my dad used to make for me. Not that we’re Irish. The beans were tasty enough that I stole strays from a neighbouring plate. I loved each bite – especially when I could mix in some of the runny yolk from the fried egg.

                                  The Full Irish is Tasty and comforting, the way a breakfast like this should be.

                                  http//www.foodpr0n.com -- food. is. love.

                              2. Don't go! I loved it at first - great food, good atmosphere. Sadly, they seem to be caught up in their initial success. Last two times I've taken friends, I was told snottily that there were no tables and none would be coming available. I get that it's a small, popular place, but come on! The first of the two times I mention, there was a big table free and we offered to share with others waiting, but were told that we could not have the table in case a big group came in. Sorry, if a big group comes in they can wait their turn, too. I now regret praising it so much, all over, and taking so many friends.

                                Ceili Cottage
                                1301 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4L, CA

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: alecta megarea

                                  We were there Friday about 6pm. There werea few empty tables, but it really is a small place. Food was good. Service was friendly and efficient. Oysters (domestic) were freshly shucked. And I liked the sticky toffee pudding.

                                  1. re: DUH CAR

                                    A combination of the worst AND most overrated restaurant in Toronto.