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The Beverley Hotel is a moderately priced casual Contemporary / eclectic restaurant located by Queen St and Spadina Ave in the Entertainment District area of Downtown Toronto.
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Review: The Beverley chills

By Alan A. Vernon, reviewed on September 26, 2013

Er, what happened to hotel dining in this town? I can remember a time, not that long ago thank you, when hotel restaurants were special occasion dining destinations--where you dressed to the nines and were treated like the royalty you pretended to be.


Er, what happened to hotel dining in this town? I can remember a time, not that long ago thank you, when hotel restaurants were special occasion dining destinations--where you dressed to the nines and were treated like the royalty you pretended to be.

Nowadays they're playgrounds for the nouveau riche, backdrops for baby-faced investment bankers and the office girls' nite out, where the food is mostly pedestrian and eminently forgettable: places like Café Boulud at the Four Seasons, the Living Room at the Windsor Arms and, most forgettable of all, Bosk at Shangri-La. One soul-crushing disappointment after another, sigh.

Not exactly the kind of track record to attract hip local foodies, unless of course the hotel in smack dab in the middle of Queen West like The Beverley, a boutique hotel that seems to fit right into its environs: posh enough to attract the right crowd, but minimalist, nature-friendly and artsy enough to keep the temperature cool and chill.

A playful read, the menu's "vulgar and sublime" ($40) is an audacious pairing of house-made potato chips with Acadian sturgeon caviar and creme fraiche. The play on words continues with a "trust us it's great" daily 4Play ($29) from exec chef Eric Wood, and a foie gras torch-on (sic) ($18) that goes over very well at an adjoining table. Good on ya, chef Wood.

Even something as ubiquitous and no-longer-exotic as edamame ($6) is given an added dimension. Tossed in a sauce that you rarely come across outside an order of the best Korean short ribs, Jason Persall's Ontario beans are wok-charred with garlic, sesame, maple and soy before being finished with ground walnuts; its heat and smokiness builds with every bite.

Cleverness makes another special guest appearance with a kale Caesar ($11). Where most flub this classic salad, this kitchen dares to substitute romaine lettuce with baby dinosaur kale and bacon with beautifully smoked tomato chips. Great move. But to elevate this from ordinary to extraordinary, the house-made dressing will need added zing from a less bashful use of lemon, garlic and anchovies. Buttermilk fried quail ($12), however, fills your mouth with flavour from every direction. Even slightly overcooked, these little birds benefit from a sumac and savoury marinade before being covered in flour, fried and finished off with a bit of honey and spice. Two words: wow and wee.

A stylized version of the classic steak tartar is yet another indication that chef does things his way. His pairing of the raw beef pate with a Nova Scotia lobster tail carpaccio makes for one great surf and turf ($16) opener. His delicately chopped, grass-fed Ontario hanger steak with pickled vegetables, a quail egg and white truffle oil tongue teases enough without the added bonus of a bone marrow mayo.

Another brilliant idea, at least on paper, is a cheeseburger wellington ($8), the evening's 4Play special. A burger topped with mushrooms and cheese encased in a thick pastry sounds too good and/or evil to be true. And it is, since the meat is both tough and tasteless. Kudos to the kitchen for trying to update an old classic, but, you know, some recipes are just better left unadulterated. Which means the highlight of the meal is instead a giant bowl of garganelli ($19) that until now has only been stellar at a Terroni near you. The perfectly toothsome house-made pasta, tossed with chanterelle and honey mushrooms, is sautéed with fava beans, spinach, garlic, sherry and hazelnuts. There's a lot to savour with this rustic dish, not the least of which is that Wood finishes the pasta in the sauce so it absorbs flavour all the way through. Perfecto.

But again the kitchen falters with a seafood chowder ($24), a supposedly popular signature dish. Fresh scallops, clams, lobster and chinook salmon are lightly cooked in a white wine and seafood fume, then placed atop a sweet corn puree and roasted potatoes. Yet in spite of expertly executed scallops, the clams are a bit shrivelled, the lobster's lost its springiness, the potatoes are undercooked and the corn puree has a slight surface film, probably from sitting under a heat lamp for too long. What's even worse is a roast chicken ($19). The portion size is ridiculously large, but it fails, too, because the meat is just too darn dry. Apparently, this Ontario air-chilled chicken is marinated in buttermilk, chilli and herbs, slow roasted, and finished with a light chili and garlic sauce. Coulda fooled me. The slightly flaccid skin has indeed been herbed, but it's more reminiscent of your first stab at a dish from the ho-hum recipe pages of Chatelaine. But there is a bright note: the dish's wilted greens and a watermelon quinoa tabouleh salad. So too is an order of Kennebec fries ($7). Other than being slightly overcooked, these crispy taters sport an inventive seasoning blend kissed with malt vinegar and dill.

And if Tim Horton's ever finds out about these sour cream donuts ($7), there's going to be trouble. Fried to order, they're as springy as a memory foam mattress, and light and airy as an angel's fart. And while the lemon curd and salted caramel are actually quite substantial sweets on their own, they detract from the brilliance of these Timbit-sized wonders. Also amazing is the orange and Szechuan peppercorn made to order ice cream ($4) and a Niagara peach jalapeno ice pop ($3) with a nice kick. Now if only they can get rid of that gooeyness you get from popsicles left in the freezer too long.

That said, there is enough culinary excitement to warrant a visit or two. And even if there are a few flaws to be fixed, the hotel claims to be more than just a place to plunk down and have a meal. According to its website, The Beverley's goal is to reconnect that part of Queen Street that's been lost with a gathering place that provokes conversation, welcomes strangers and makes room for conflicting ideals. Hey, hasn't The Black Bull been doing that for decades?

Reviews are meant to describe a dining out experience at a given period in time and are the personal opinion of the writer.
All meals are paid for, including all taxes and gratuities. All reservations are made under assumed names. Menu items, prices and individuals mentioned in this review may not be up to date. Dine.TO encourages its users to share their feedback.

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