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English Guests

MrsCooke Aug 2, 2009 05:53 PM

I have been a silent chow reader for quite some time now reading and absorbing everything you all have to say ... in fact several times I've followed your advice and it is always spot on. Now I have a problem and I need your help.

In a couple of weeks time my mother and father in law are coming to visit for 2 weeks. During these two weeks they will both have birthdays so we wanted to take them somewhere nice for food.

Here is the problem, my mother in law has very simple tastes ... she only likes very plain and simple food! Do any of you have any ideas of somewhere nice that serves english food "unmessed" with (or at least offers this as an option on the menu). Don't mind about the price at the moment just trying to get some ideas ... anywhere suggested would be very welcome as I'm struggling.


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  1. jayt90 RE: MrsCooke Aug 2, 2009 06:14 PM

    What area? Some fish and chips shops are respectable, and offer plain food, well cooked.
    Highland is one, in the east end, but there are others.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jayt90
      paper_bag_princess RE: jayt90 Aug 2, 2009 06:22 PM

      What about The Keg? Will she eat a steak or prime rib

      Barberians might work as well, they have quite a few non steak items on the menu that are pretty plain.

    2. m
      miranda RE: MrsCooke Aug 2, 2009 06:39 PM

      Take them to the Brazen Head in Liberty Village (King and Dufferin)..my visiting British friends loved it...Fish&Chips..or The Irish Embassy...great Pub food...Miranda

      2 Replies
      1. re: miranda
        theresah RE: miranda Aug 2, 2009 07:00 PM

        My UK relatives love Le Paradis.

        1. re: miranda
          robgm RE: miranda Aug 6, 2009 04:22 AM

          skip the Brazen Head, poor service and poorly executed food

        2. m
          MrsCooke RE: MrsCooke Aug 2, 2009 07:38 PM

          Thanks for all your suggestions so far ... the Irish Embassy and any form of fish and chips sounds good but if anyone has any ideas for somewhere more memorable that would be great as this is the first time they will have been outside of Europe.

          Sorry I forgot to mention we live down by the St. Lawrence Market so somewhere downtown ish or we are willing to travel anywhere on or near a TTC stop of some sort (we don't have a car).

          3 Replies
          1. re: MrsCooke
            OnDaGo RE: MrsCooke Aug 2, 2009 08:35 PM

            Starfish they do great cooked fish and steak, not overly fance yet special and memorible.. with a bit of a canadian twist..

            1. re: OnDaGo
              Helen RE: OnDaGo Aug 2, 2009 09:19 PM

              Take them to Bibiche, they'll get on well with Harry !!!

              1. re: OnDaGo
                pinstripeprincess RE: OnDaGo Aug 3, 2009 06:01 AM

                i would go with starfish too. they do classic well but they'll also have more interesting items on the menu for yourself.

                it's also very close to your neighbourhood and has a very neighbourhood feel while still being a good blend of upscale and casual.

            2. Paulustrious RE: MrsCooke Aug 3, 2009 03:56 AM

              If we are talking 'meat and two veg' then Prague Restaurant would be good. Might take a little too long to get to via the TTC.


              While they are here you should take in breakfast. Make sure they sell pea-meal bacon and recommend that.

              I would take them for a walk round Chinatown. Remember there are a lot of Indian and Chinese restaurants in the UK. You can always settle for a Jumbo empanada which is pretty close to a Cornish pasty.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Paulustrious
                phoenikia RE: Paulustrious Aug 3, 2009 10:34 AM

                I love Prague Deli, but its Czech food would be "foreign" food to most plain eaters from England.

                1. re: Paulustrious
                  MrsCooke RE: Paulustrious Aug 3, 2009 05:22 PM

                  Thanks, yes we are talking meat and two veg ... we may well travel to Prague even if it is tricky on the TTC!!! Any one else got meat and two veg options?

                  1. re: MrsCooke
                    phoenikia RE: MrsCooke Aug 3, 2009 09:00 PM

                    Be aware that Prague is only open until 6 pm on Saturday, and 7 pm during the week- but it's a great place to eat during the day.

                    It's more of a deli than a restaurant. http://www.theprague.ca/index.php

                    The Queen St streetcar, westbout stops close to the restaurant, so it shouldn't be too tricky on the TTC- subway to Queen, and streetcar to Prague Deli;)

                    1. re: phoenikia
                      Paulustrious RE: phoenikia Aug 4, 2009 02:45 PM

                      Hi Phoenika, I think you are confusing Prague Deli with Prague Restaurant. Check the link in my previous post.

                      Pardon the rude question MrsCooke, are your parents fully mobile? By that I mean, can they stroll through an area like Queen West, Danforth, Little India / Portugal / Korea or Chinatown? In which case a little menu shopping would not go astray.
                      Would they like to eat at the top of the CN tower? Someone mentioned Houses on Parliament. If they are pub-food people then that's a good suggestion.
                      There are a couple of pleasant reaturants on the East end of the Danforth, Melanie's Bistro and Bistro Camino, both of which have value-for-money reasonable food - and will have at least one thing on the menu she recognises.
                      I also suspect that a greek meal - possibly one with lamb chops - would make the grade.
                      And how would your mum feel about traditional English food like pizza, tandoori chicken massala, coq au vin, beef stroganoff and spaghetti bolognese? And to disbelievers out there - these are traditional !

                      1. re: Paulustrious
                        phoenikia RE: Paulustrious Aug 4, 2009 02:47 PM

                        Oh- I completely was confusing the two. Sorry Paulustrious! My apologies!

                        Didn't know about Prague Restaurant. It does look like it might be a little more challenging to reach via the TTC. Will have to give this place a try one of these days- always looking for good options for Mittleleuropean food. Thanks for the correction.

                        1. re: Paulustrious
                          MrsCooke RE: Paulustrious Aug 5, 2009 10:38 AM

                          Thanks Paulustrious ... yes, they are mobile so maybe menu shopping is the best idea.

                          Herein lies the problem ... we were planning on the top of the CN tower but when I reviewed the menu there was too much stuff on there that would have been considered not plain enough ... chicken (fine) shitake mushrooms (definite no no)!!

                          Yes I do agree that pizza, tandoori chicken massala, coq au vin, beef stroganoff and spaghetti bolognese are all considered traditional fair but I believe my mother in law would actually term them as anything but ... although pizza could just about squeeze through so long as it had nothing on it but tomatoes, cheese, ham and pineapple ... and I mean nothing no herbs nothing!

                          1. re: MrsCooke
                            ddelicious RE: MrsCooke Aug 5, 2009 11:08 AM

                            We have English family too, and I completely agree with your assessment of what plain food is. Try the old mill, they have a traditional sunday dinner, or if you would like to do a brunch, any of the big hotels serve a buffet weekend brunch that is pretty traditional. The four seasons or the King Edward would be good choices.
                            I sympathize, I find choosing a place to eat for this type of palate is a real challenge (i.e. pain!)

                  2. Rabbit RE: MrsCooke Aug 3, 2009 04:42 AM

                    Maybe Barberian's... it's a steakhouse, so they could have prime rib or a fairly ungussied piece of fish or chop. Definitely has an occasion-y feel. Food is quite good and service tends to be very attentive. (www.barberians.com).

                    Maybe Biff's. Menu has a French bistro influence but it's not overly sophisticated. Resto is in your neighbourhood and also occasion-worthy. http://www.oliverbonacini.com/biffsmo...

                    Irish Embassy is perfectly fine, but it's really just a pub, and probably a fairly faux-ish take for anyone who actually lives the UK. If you do go the pub route, you might also consider The Rebel House which is a decidedly Canadian take (www.rebelhouse.ca), or PJ O'Brien, which is also in your neighbourhood (www.pjobrien.com


                    I agree that the Keg is a not-bad suggestion for fussy eaters. Again, you can get plain steak or prime rib. The Keg Mansion has a celebratory feel.

                    1. CeeQueue RE: MrsCooke Aug 3, 2009 05:52 AM

                      Maybe House on Parliament, but not on a busy Friday or Saturday night.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: CeeQueue
                        swissmissy RE: CeeQueue Aug 3, 2009 06:35 AM

                        I'd also suggest Barberian's. Its my husbands favorite place to go for special occaions and he is a very picky and plain eater... only 'meat and potatos' for him. The service is wonderful too.

                      2. p
                        phoenikia RE: MrsCooke Aug 3, 2009 10:11 AM

                        Bistros like Bistro 990 and Le Select have some straightforward dishes. Steak frites and roast chicken/chicken breast/chicken supreme might work for conservative palettes, and they usually show up on most bistro menus.

                        You could take the King W streetcar to get close to Le Select, which has a memorable atmosphere inside as well as a nice patio.

                        Also, Jacques Bistro du Parc in Yorkville has a lot of omelettes- seems like a popular choice for anglo palettes.

                        Tom Jones Steakhouse is also close to SLM, and has plain food (steak, prime rib) on the menu.

                        If you're looking for something cheaper than the places I've suggested, Bloor St Diner at the Manulife centre serves mediocre but plain food (roast chicken, etc).

                        Not English food suggestions, but pretty plain imo:)

                        Cafe Victoria at the King Edward has Beef Wellington on the current menu, but I can't imagine English visitors being impressed by our city's "English" offerings:)

                        1. b
                          blogs RE: MrsCooke Aug 4, 2009 04:04 AM


                          Downtown and an old fashioned steak house, with yorkshire pudding roast beef

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: blogs
                            Bigtigger RE: blogs Aug 4, 2009 07:26 AM

                            Blogs, whatever its merits, Hy's is anything BUT an "old-fashioned steak house" - it is a glitzy place in a renovated historic building, full of suits, with variable food at a high price point, and olten quite cool/disorganized service if one is not a regular.

                            Mrs Cooke, how about an evening meal on the patio (or indoors if you prefer by candle-light) at the Rosedale Diner a few steps off the Summerhill subway stop of the Yonge Street line ? It has an eclectic menu of comfort foods with a Canadian twist, reasonable prices and a slightly funky unpretentious atmosphere. Quite different from anything your guests might have seen, but respectful of the plain tastes you describe - poutine with short ribs, a lamb burger, etc....

                            1. re: Bigtigger
                              blogs RE: Bigtigger Aug 4, 2009 01:26 PM

                              I will admit it has been a few years but as I recall they did a very good roast beef.

                              The space is nice and suitable for a special occasion, the service as I remember it was very good.

                              The link attached has a menu.

                              The OP mentioned that price was not an issue.

                              1. re: Bigtigger
                                Paulustrious RE: Bigtigger Aug 4, 2009 02:49 PM

                                What a good idea - a diner. I've never been to the Rosedale one, but if it has bright red vinyl bench seats then so much the better.

                                1. re: Paulustrious
                                  Dimbulb RE: Paulustrious Aug 5, 2009 12:29 PM

                                  Not after Restaurant Makeover.

                            2. jayt90 RE: MrsCooke Aug 4, 2009 03:40 PM

                              MrsCooke, if you can wangle an invitation to one of the old established clubs, such as Rosedale Golf or the Granite Club, the food and service will be ideal for your purpose.
                              The Old Mill is another possibility, and close to the Bloor subway.
                              Osgoode Hall dining room is also very traditional.

                              Old Mill
                              21 Old Mill Road, Toronto, ON M8X 1G5, CA

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: jayt90
                                pinkprimp RE: jayt90 Aug 6, 2009 10:49 AM

                                Osgoode dining hall will not be open when the English guests arrive in two weeks' time. They resume business in September, I believe.

                              2. c
                                Cat123 RE: MrsCooke Aug 4, 2009 04:15 PM

                                Completely agree on the steak house idea - Tom Jones (mentioned already) is good IMHO in addition to the others mentioned here and would be fairly close to you.

                                I find that Italian food is often good for plain eaters and you will find lots of suggestions on this board. Romagna Mia would be close to you, has a huge menu and good food. Biagio is also close and although I haven't been there in a long time it has a beautiful patio and generally a very good reputation.

                                In terms of more modern places, I find that Sidecar's menu is quite traditional - they have lots of simple items (done well) that would please a picky eater. That might satisfy the desire for somewhere more fun with a nod to simple food.

                                1. m
                                  MrsCooke RE: MrsCooke Aug 5, 2009 10:39 AM

                                  Thanks to everyone who has made suggestions so far ... all very much appreciated ... keep them coming if anything else comes up!

                                  1. estufarian RE: MrsCooke Aug 5, 2009 12:43 PM

                                    I had a similar issue and found that one of the 'unspoken' issues was that the COST of food here could be a significant factor. For example, going to Barberian's wasn't enjoyed but going to The Keg was much enjoyed. I'm sure that very few people here (anybody?) really believes that The Keg is better than Barberian's - however, my English relatives were impressed with the Keg and enjoyed it more. Similarly Red Lobster was a hit - the perceived 'value' was acceptable. Also, as 'plain eaters' don't regularly dine out they can easily get embarrassed at upscale places where they're more concerned about how to behave. You'll also encounter 'weird' preferences (e.g. green melon is fine, but orange melon is too exotic).
                                    With my relatives I found 'simple bistros' to be the best bets. Someone mentioned Le Paradis above. I used Cafe Pleiades on Mount Pleasant.
                                    And don't ignore Indian - it's mainstream now in UK - I found Trimurti was very acceptable, but I avoided the spicy dishes.
                                    And don't obsess about roast beef - almost certainly they'll prefer the 'English version' anyway - so don't try too hard to duplicate it here! Similarly with Fish & Chips.
                                    And, yes, Swiss Chalet was also greatly appreciated. As was straightforward 'Chinese Food' - downscale, not fine dining.

                                    1. redhead RE: MrsCooke Aug 5, 2009 01:46 PM

                                      If you think they would be ok with "bistro" fare, you might try Provence, on Amelia street in Cabbagetown..they have some simple steak frites options that would work..alternatively, I have taken many a "plain food lover" to the Pear Tree on Parliament street...not my favourite, but a safe bet for some. I also wonder about heading a bit east to Leslieville to try out Table 17, which is a very homey kind of bistro that I believe was having a "bring your own wine" option on sundays, with a fixed price menu (no corkage)...I have sent lots of people to Sidecar as well (college street) - something for everyone there!

                                      1. s
                                        SpupEh RE: MrsCooke Aug 5, 2009 07:38 PM

                                        If you take the Queen streetcar east towards the Beach, there's the Tulip Steakhouse at Coxwell. Very simple steak-and-two-veg, without any of the fussiness you often find at the high-end steakhouses. For something a bit more Mitteleuropean, try the Country Style Hungarian Restaurant in the Annex at 450 Bloor West between Spadina and Bathurst. Pork in so many different ways, and most dishes are not nearly as spicy as the "Hungarian" in the name might suggest. Both places are fairly economical, you don't have to dress up (in fact, you might feel out of place if you do), and are easily accessible by TTC.

                                        1. haggisdragon RE: MrsCooke Aug 6, 2009 10:25 AM

                                          My mom is Scottish, and a very plain eater. it is always an ordeal to find something that she'll eat when we're dining out. Her favourite restaurant is Swiss Chalet (yawn). I'm thinking maybe an upscale pub like the Queen and Beaver might be a good idea. Their menu has some very simple food on it, with quality ingredients, and the place has a nice atmosphere.

                                          1. CeeQueue RE: MrsCooke Sep 6, 2009 09:59 AM

                                            Curious where you ended up taking your guests.

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