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May 12, 2012 03:25 PM

Stratford Festival 2012

2 new restaurants have opened recently in Stratford.

The Restaurant at Mercer Hall, located in the Mercer Hall Inn at 108 Ontario Street, opened this past week.!/MHResto

Wok on Downie is a new Chinese restaurant located at 118 Downie Street.

2012 Stratford Culinary Guide:

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  1. Resto at Mercer Hall, 104 Ontario Street, Stratford, ON (519) 271-9202

    Resto at Mercer Hall review:

    Rundles 2012 Sophisto Bistro menu

    Rundles 2012 Restaurant menu

    The Prune 2012 dinner menu

    The Church's 2012 dinner menu

    The Belfry's 2012 dinner menu

    Bijou menu

    Down The Street dinner menu

    4 Replies
    1. re: prima

      Had a lovely dinner at Rundles' Sophisto Bistro last night.

      For anyone who likes charcuterie, I'd recommend their charcuterie starter. At least 8 different house-made cured meats, as well as a chicken liver mousse, were included last night. We had a chance to try a poached octopus salad, with a cirtrus dressing. My main was the shrimp dumplings with pork belly. The lemon tart was the perfect end to my meal. The lemon filling was a perfect balance of sweet and tart, served in a decadent yet delicate crust, and accompanied with lemon sorbet.

      All the courses were beautifully plated. I thought the portion sizes this season were just right. The bread was wonderful, as always.

      Service was professional. Service in the Bistro seems to be slightly more laid-back than service in the more formal Restaurant. I like the somewhat more casual vibe, service and atmosphere in the Bistro.

      Of my 4 dinners in Stratford this season, this dinner was my favourite. I might try to squeeze in another play and another dinner at the Sophisto Bistro before the Statford Festival 2012 comes to a close.

      1. re: prima

        I really enjoyed my dinner at Sophistro Bistro as well. My starter of dungeness crab with mango salsa and spicy uni sauce had nicely balanced flavours and textures. The charcuterie plate was definitely a winner though -- impressive, especially as part of a prix fixe. I also had the shrimp dumplings with pork belly and shiitake mushrooms. Great deep flavours, though I found something (the broth maybe?) a tad over salted. But still delicious. For dessert, I opted for the fresh peaches with strawberry granita and vanilla. With the quality of peaches we've been getting, this one would be hard pressed to go wrong. It was cool, refreshing and a great way to end the meal.

        I also appreciate that they offer their small but nicely varied wine list in glasses or quartinos. A quartino is probably my favourite personal size -- basically a glass and a half, just perfect when I don't want to drink too much.

        I enjoyed this dinner much more than my dinner at Rundles last year, which was good, but overpriced. And 42nd St. was excellent, too! :)

          1. re: TorontoJo

            I really enjoyed the crab starter and the peach dessert as well. My hangar steak entree was executed well, cooked perfectly at medium rare. I liked the bold flavours of the kimchi and mustard seed puree and the strong hit of fried garlic for the potatoes. Service was very good, perfectly timed so we could make the show in plenty of time. It was much appreciated. Would definitely return in the future.

      2. Thanks for the list Prima. I'm headed to Stratford this summer and I've already heard good things about Mercer Hall. Looking forward to eating in the Stratosphere.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

          I'm looking forward to dining at Mercer Hall next week. ;-)

          Also, for anyone who is interested, there's a Long Table Dinner fundraiser taking place outdoors in Stratford this Sunday, June 10th, to raise funds for the Stratford Chefs School. Details are on the Stratford Chefs School website. I'm not sure if the tickets have already sold out.

          1. re: prima

            I enjoyed a 3 course prix fixe ($45 including coffee or tea) at the Resto at Mercer Hall. The Resto at Mercer Hall serves better sized portions than most upscale places in Stratford. The servers were friendly.

            I liked the warm pretzel buns that arrived as soon as we sat down. I tried the chicken liver mousse, and the pork schnitzel with warm potato and bacon salad (especially liked this potato salad), and a Liege waffle topped with rhubarb compote. The waffle was tasty, although the rhubarb compote was maybe a little heavy handed with the spices, including a fair amount of clove. While I liked the schnitzel, I liked my friend's duck main more.

            My friend's dessert, a jelly donut-inspired creme brulee, with jelly in the middle, and a donut hole on the side, was whimsical. I liked the fact coffee or tea was included in the prix fixe. Mercer Hall is serving hearty, gastropubby food featuring many local ingredients and some Mitteleuropean influences. I'm sure I'll be back at some point this summer.

            I also enjoyed a 3 course prix fixe dinner ($55) at Bijou this weekend. Portions at Bijou are significantly smaller than the portions at Mercer Hall. The food at Bijou tends to be innovative, with some Asian influences and sometimes unexpected ingredients. One of the main courses on the menu tonight included Ovalitine in the sauce.

            I tried the chicken wing confit with Korean BBQ sauce and pickled vegetables (sort of a play on a deboned Buffalo wing, which I would not order again), the perch (with peas, napa, Chinese mushrooms) and rhubarb galette with rhubarb sorbet. My friends' choices, marinated eggplant/beet/bacon/goat cheese/scallion salad, the seared tuna with pea shoot puree, and theroast ribeye, would've been better choices for me. The baguette served with dinner was great. If I remember correctly, Bijou serves Neil Baxter's baguettes at their restaurant.

            I enjoyed Bijou's rhubarb galette (which resembled a tart made with a delicate pastry, rather than a folded galette). My friends enjoyed their desserts- a frozen mango parfait, and a lemon creme brulee. I'll probably go with duck next time I dine at Bijou.

            Both Bijou and Mercer Hall are open for dinner on Sundays.

            It seems almost every upscale menu in Stratford has some sort of chicken liver first course (mousse, pate or parfait) and some sort of creme brulee with a twist is showing up on quite a few menus. Fennel also seems to be showing up on more menus than I'd expect- as the side with my schnitzel at the Resto at MH, as the side with my friend's beef at Bijou, on the menu at Rundles' Sophisto Bistro.

            I'm not sure where I'll dine on my next visit to Stratford. Possibly Sophisto Bistro ($49.50 for 1st course and main, $62.50 for 1st course, main and dessert, ) or Keystone Alley Cafe

            I look forward to hearing about other Chowhounds' meals in Stratford this season.

            1. re: prima

              I read the website dinner menu and there is nothing on it I would order.

              1. re: Herne

                I still haven't tried Keystone Alley. It's the go-to in Stratford for a couple I know.

                Did you dine at Foster's Inn, Herne? If so, how was it?

                1. re: prima

                  Haven't been there yet but it is my list of things to do. Unfortunately back problems currently would make it difficult to walk to the place from the car::)) Fortunately they rarely last more than 2 weeks.

        2. I had a good meal at Foster's Inn this week. Generous portions and reasonable prices for Stratford. All the mains on menu cost less than $30.

          I like that Foster's Inn has several entree salads on the menu. Foster's has several standards on the menu that will keep plainer eaters happy. I enjoyed the fried calamari. While the crabcakes in the crabcake arugula salad had more filler than I like, I enjoyed the arugula salad and yogurt dressing. My friends enjoyed their mussels, gazpacho and steaks. I'll probably get steak or pasta on my next visit.

          Foster's Inn also serves Sunday Brunch.

          Casual atmosphere. Quick and friendly service.

          3 Replies
          1. re: prima

            You convinced me. Checked the website and next Stratford trip its dinner at Foster's Inn. So you recall if there was any parking nearby?

            1. re: Herne

              There's metered street parking on Downie St where Foster's is located, on Ontario St, on the side streets near Foster's, in the square across from the Avon Theatre, and in the lot accessible off of Erie St. There's free parking in the big lot about 3 blocks further west of Foster's, where most of the Downie St commercial strip ends, closer to The Parlour (the restaurant in the Best Western.)

              While I like Foster's, which has more generous portions and less expensive prices than Mercer Hall or Bijou, the food is less complicated and more conservative than the food at Mercer or Bijou. Might be more likely to be wowed at Mercer or Bijou, but it comes at a premium in Stratford. Foster's is solid, and well-priced. I'd probably have steak at Foster's on my next visit.

              1. re: prima

                In the past I have been to Rundle's, The Old Prune and The Church so its time to try something less than the marque places. I plan to try the 7 oz Tenderloin.

                Thanks for the info about parking. Always seems to be a problem when you aren't really familiar with the place.

          2. Thank you for pointing out the new Restaurant at Mercer Hall Inn, as this is where my friend and I dined on our recent trip to Stratford.

            This restaurant is a great addition to the dining choices in Stratford. Sadly, there were only about 4 tables seated when we arrived for our reservations at 530pm, and the restaurant was only half full when we left around 715pm for our 8pm show. The restaurant has a lot of potential.

            Both my friend and I chose the $44 prix fixe - a fabulous deal with appetizer, main, dessert plus tea/coffee. Portions were generous, and service was friendly but lacked attention to small details. The food was generally good, but had some "misses".

            When my friend ordered her prix fixe, she clearly stated "For the prix fixe, I'd like..." and went on to choose the seared scallops, as her appetizer, the schnitzel as her main. (We waited to choose dessert afterwards). She then indicated that she would like to add a salad on the side, and our waiter took this order also. I chose the marrow as my appetizer and the steak frites as my main.

            The first to arrive at the table were 3 pretzel buns - with a side of house-made mustard. They were wonderful, with a crusty exterior revealing a chewy "bun". Delicious!

            For the appetizers, my friend found her scallops salty, but the butter lettuce salad nice and fresh. I enjoyed my marrow appetizer, but having had the version from Campagnolo not that long ago, felt that the MHResto version had less flavoring than Campagnolo (maybe different types of bones?) and the very salty and tart butcher salad that accompanied it was somehow out-of-balance for me. When the waiter came by to check how we were enjoying our meals, my friend commented on her scallops being too salty and he indicated he would provide feedback to the kitchen. I didn't comment on my dish.

            Next came our mains. My friend raved about the warm potato/bacon salad and the apple slaw that accompanied her schnitzel. She loved the entire dish, and would order it again. When my steak frites first arrived, that's when it dawned on me that I was never asked when ordering this dish how I wanted my steak. It came medium - I definitely would have preferred it on the rare/medium-rare side. No matter, the steak was still good, and led to a discussion among ourselves as to whether restos usually give a choice for the done-ness of a flat steak, since it's harder to make a flat steak rare!?! A note, also, that the "frites" were actually thick cut fries, served with house-made smoked ketchup and roasted shallot aioli; not exactly what I was expecting but this did not stop me from eating most of my fries!

            For dessert, my friend had the Leige waffle with local fruit compote. I had the jelly-donut creme brulee. We both enjoyed our desserts, and the portion size of the dessert was perfect - not too big; just enough to satisfy a sweet hit.

            The bill arrived when we were having dessert but we were assured to take our time. When we finally reviewed the bill, we noticed that my friend was charged for the scallops($18) instead of the butter lettuce salad ($10) as the extra appetizer to the prix-fixe. We brought this to our waiter's attention and his response was that the prix-fixe defaults to the lower-priced dish. But this had not been raised to my friend's attention when she ordered, especially since she purposefully ordered her appie/main, and then noted separately that she wanted to add a salad on the side. I know we're pointing out the difference of $8 (but that's an extra glass of wine here). Weirdly, the waiter then said he would ask about it, because he had intended to see if anything could be done for my friend's comment regarding her scallops being too salty. What was odd was that he had already given us the bill about 15 minutes prior to this discussion. Shouldn't he have looked into this before to giving us the bill if he really meant to look into it? Instead, he made this comment AFTER we flagged our bill to his attention to discuss the "extra" appetizer. So if we had been complacent, nothing would have been done. In the end, my friend's salad was comped which was a very nice gesture.

            My default "medium" steak, and the fact the the waiter did not mention how an extra appetizer would be billed when ordering in combination with a prix-fixe, led to my comment about the service lacking attention to small details.

            Overall, both my friend and I said that we would come back to MHResto again, to try out some of the other dishes. I did inquire about vegetarian choices with the server, as my next trip to Stratford is with a vegetarian, low-carbing friend. He indicated the kitchen would do their best to accommodate, but because their menus are evolving, it would be difficult to predict whether choices would suit her. Thus, I think we'll pass but there are still many great shows to see at Stratford (and of concern to me, the two shows we attended were not sold-out), so hopefully another chance to visit this resto.

            Lastly, when chatting with the couple next to us before our evening show begun, they indicated that they too had dined at MH Resto (on another visit) and had enjoyed their meal there. But, they highly raved and recommended a visit to Bijou!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Steady

              Glad it was a good experience for you!

              I like Bijou, but I've found Bijou's portions tend to be much smaller than the portions served at MHResto, at a slightly higher price. Both are nice restaurants in Stratford.

            2. Anyone been to the Savour Stratford festival in past years? Thinking about going this weekend:


              3 Replies
              1. re: ylsf

                I'll be there for the weekend!

                1. re: jlunar

                  How was it, jlunar?

                  Are any Chowhounds going to the Monforte Hootenanny Potluck in Stratford on September 30th?

                  Creme Fraiche Market has organized a 40-person bus ($30/person) leaving from Bloor West Village:

                  1. re: prima

                    Sounds like fun but going to be SLEEPING after Nuit Blanche. Doing TUM that night.