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Old-fashioned, hearty brunch and dinner options rule the roost at this Portugal Village sweetheart whose focus is on traditional tastes for big appetites. Hungry patrons come to dig into buttermilk pancakes, skirt steak salads and Wellington County meatballs so packed with flavour you'll need a dedicated driver to get you home. The meat-heavy menu is straightforward enough, but every dish is given the kiss of uniqueness from a restaurant keen not to be an also-ran. The space is bright and sunny with just the right amount of cheerful ambient noise to make it seem lived in, and not overwhelmed.
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Review: Not quite guilding the lily

By Alan A. Vernon, reviewed on April 18, 2013
A mishmash of knick knacks and vintage finds is a pretty common design motif for many a new eatery these days. After all, how many restauranteurs can really afford multi-million dollar renos with A-list design teams? But the lack of any unified decor theme can be hard on...
A mishmash of knick knacks and vintage finds is a pretty common design motif for many a new eatery these days. After all, how many restauranteurs can really afford multi-million dollar renos with A-list design teams? But the lack of any unified decor theme can be hard on this aesthete's eyes. And despite the fact that The Guild is a hodgepodge of everything from window frames to tree stumps, bathrooms papered from the pages of Larousse Gastronomique to tables topped with terrariums and seat cushions covered in burlap coffee sacs, the owners have somehow managed to transform a large dreary space into quite the comfortable and cozy room. I can't say unequivocally that all the choices demonstrate a keen knack for design, but if you can get past the garish, patina-less tin ceiling, odd floor tiles and peculiar light-fixture choices, it's still hip and inviting, even if accidental.

And though the shabby chic Guild, a former flower shop that feels more like a converted garage, may look like just a mismatched medley of colours and natural textures, its menu is anything but confusing and complicated. The selection is mercifully small, focusing on contemporary Canadian cuisine like fried oysters ($9), their light and airy batter frame rather than fight with the subtle flavours of the sea. But the horseradish cream is too timid and weighed down by a sauce as thick as a dip with too much tahini. Thankfully, a fennel, heirloom carrot and beet salad offers a nice punch of colour to a pretty drab and depressing looking plate.

What? Smoked duck breast ($8) with foie gras, bok choy, black sesame and blood orange for how much? Has chef gone mad? Kudos for the McDonald's value menu pricing, but too bad the meat is a trifle overcooked, looking like they belong stuffed in a deli sub. As for the thimble-sized piece of foie, it has an adorable little brûlée top, but it's unbelievably difficult to cut into. In stark contrast to the bowl of Yukon Gold gnocchi with braised wild boar ($17) in a roasted garlic porcini cream with rapini that's as pillowy soft as it should be. But what the menu should read is "river of roasted garlic porcini cream" because that's all that you can see on the plate. The city of Pompeii was buried in less ash than the sauce in this dish. In spite of that, and as much as I hate to admit it, it's still passable comfort food - that is, if you find solace and comfort in a Swanson Hungry-Man meal. In fact, the gravy is so thick it forms a film much like boiled milk or congealed pudding. Hey, what do I know, but to avoid this mistake in the future, perhaps it could be poured out of a gravy boat a la table.

It appears that the kitchen gets it right with a nicely seared crispy Ontario trout ($19) with pickled red cabbage, fennel and fried parsnip. But wait, the gravy train reappears to pour in a pool of spinach veloute when a small puddle would suffice. This dish could easily be a hit if the kitchen would just follow some rudimentary culinary school basics.

A charred Wellington County flanked (sic) steak ($24) with confit potatoes, asparagus and bone marrow butter sounds like a sure fire winner. A nicely rare slab comes sliced, which cools it down much too quickly. As anyone who knows me can attest, pre-sliced steak and genocide are two things I simply cannot abide. That said, this rich and buttery piece of cow belly muscle is surprisingly flavourful. And it would be reward enough, but add to that two mammoth discs of expertly confited spuds and it's clear evidence that the kitchen can complete a perfect dish with finesse from start to finish. As they did with an order of beignets ($6). All the rage, three donut-like hot cross buns are heaven sent, dusted with heaps of icing sugar to counter balance the not-so-sweet freshly baked challah-like interior. Fluffy and featherweight, this dessert clearly demonstrates a trained eye and culinary control. An accompanying chocolate dip makes this the best dessert going right now. Unlike a homemade blood orange sorbet ($6) that suffers from the same case of gooeyness that happens to ice cream left in the freezer for too long.

The Guild has issues to tackle, but nothing so drastic that can't be remedied with a more heightened alert to what exits chef/owner Mani Binelli's kitchen. Since 1987, he's worked as a pastry chef and a saucier, from a line cook and chef de cuisine to an executive chef, so amateur hour should be long behind him. Spending more time tasting and testing, poking and prodding will ensure that no dish gets served before its time, certainly not one drowning from floods of sauce. If the food can achieve a consistency as half as good as the A+ level of service, The Guild will be yet another winning neighbourhood restaurant. Huzzah!
Reviews are meant to describe a dining out experience at a given period in time and are the personal opinion of the writer.
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Rachel may recommend The Guild Restaurant

Worst service ever. Went in a big group (14 people), but there were only 2 other people in the restaurant. They took our orders, brought our drinks and baskets of bread. I got my food about 30 minutes later and 2 other people got an app they were sharing, about 90 mintues after that everyone else go their food. At least the food was very good.
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