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English Guests

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. 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

      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. 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

        My UK relatives love Le Paradis.

        1. re: miranda

          skip the Brazen Head, poor service and poorly executed food

        2. 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

            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

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

              1. re: OnDaGo

                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. 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

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

                1. re: Paulustrious

                  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

                    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

                      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

                        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

                          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

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

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: CeeQueue

                        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. 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. http://www.hyssteakhouse.com/hys-toro...

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

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: blogs

                            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

                              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

                                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.

                            2. 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

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

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

                                  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. Curious where you ended up taking your guests.