Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Hintonburg Public House; premiere 2012.

Our first new year's outing as the Ottawa Breakfast Club finds us at the big table at the back of the recently opened (November 2011) Hintonburg Public House at 1020 Wellington St. West. Some illness kept a couple away but we were a happy six this fine mild winter's Sunday. 

Some of us have been here for dinner pre-christmas so we had some idea of what the place was/is about when it comes to the menu and brunch is not too far removed from the lunch menu with a couple dishes added and some offering an egg as an addition. The additional egg is $2. Now I don't want to go into the whole 'gross profit' debacle - I completely (coming from a catering background) understand that you don't just have to buy the ingredient; you have to cook it, serve it and deal with the mess it makes and pay someone/people to take car of that process all the while thinking about paying the rent and heating and lighting the place. A $2 egg still makes me 'gulp' though!

While we are on the subject of pricing. It's a tricky one for restaurants, as they often think they are adding value via their presentation or their flair or some other USP that they think they have. The problem is that often the customer doesn't see that added value and therefore sees a menu item as over-priced rather than something 'appropriately' priced. Mostly this miss-match is due either to a lack of communication regarding what the added value is or a failure to deliver the added value, whether communicated or not.
Our mason jar chandelier 
The HPH is a trendy affair, using a lot of recycled materials for it's decor - miss-matched tables, chairs and tableware with a lot of interesting lighting using mason jars and the like. It's 'green'. It's 'eco-friendly'. It's rustic. It's actually quite nice too and provides a nice warm ambience to the place. However, warm was not what my feet were after 90 minutes in contact with a concrete floor that was sub zero. 

They have a large 'kitchen-table' at the back that would comfortably seat 8 and maybe 10 and this was the scene for brunch this morning.

Coffee is a flat charge of $2.50 and it's 'never-ending' - good job as my cup was always filled half way which proved for a brunch where I was always looking for a refill; also, the cream and milk are served in jugs - which is great, as opposed to those little plastic capsules, but only if they are filled as, and when, required - brunch is always about the conversation, the stories and the laughter so it's never conducive when we all have to keep asking for coffee and dairy.

The menu changes here quite a lot. We checked online and it had changed from that quite a bit - it grew, for one thing, and there were new items not online, so take what you see on the website as a flavour of the menu not verbatim.

Apart from the 'scramble' plate ($10) most of the brunch items are around the $14/$15 mark and for brunch that's getting to the high end of the price range. My duck hash with a poached egg, toast and jam was $14. The lamb sandwich was $15.
Duck hash with a side of fries w/curry mayo

I have to say that my duck hash was good. The duck was tasty if a little bit light in the mix of potato hash and green onion but I enjoyed it. The poached egg was medium, I wasn't asked how I wanted it cooked so that's ok. I usually expect my poached egg to be soft and have some 'run' to the yoke. I knew portions were never huge here so I also ordered a side of fries with curry mayo ($6). Now this happened before - the fries you get always seem to be the fries one would get at the end of a batch. A lot of small crispy bits and if you like crispy bits - this is the side for you. I don't. The curry mayo was ok.

I tried the lamb sandwich which is the dish I ordered when I was here for dinner last year - this 2012 version tasted better, actually tasted of lamb.

My dish said it came with jam and toast. It didn't. I asked for it. I then got a piece of bread that had not even seen a toaster nor any heat. I asked if the toaster was broken and in hindsight that was probably taken the wrong way but in any case I asked for some toast for my jam and I then got 2 pieces of bread burnt at one end and still un-toasted at the other end. It looked like it had been placed on a griddle pan rather than toasted from a toaster or a grill. Seriously, if you are going to put toast on the menu please be able to actually toast some bread with a measure of competency.

The jam was awful. It was so tarte that I couldn't even determine what fruit it was meant to be made from. It was akin to the terrible home-made cranberry sauce I had from a well known hotel at Christmas.

We hadn't had brunch for a few weeks and we had a lot of catching up to do - thank the lord as if it was just the food it wouldn't have been a happy 90 minutes at all.

I really want to like this place, I certainly support the premise of the place. I just can't be super complementary about the actual food. If you compare, and if you are a local no doubt you already have, this place to the BackLane Cafe who charges about the same for their plates then the HPH is way behind on taste, presentation and portion size. The BackLane is a fine-dining brunch. The HPH is not.

Next week it looks like we'll be trying out the Fraser Cafe in Vanier - another fine dining brunch. Let's hope it is.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed a relaxing late morning with the bunch today at the HPH. Although it was chilly, the well placed light fixture gave the ambiance of heat and keeping a coffee cup in my hand also kept me warm.

    I had the Lamb Sandwich/St-Amboise Cheese/Caramelized Onion/Bibb Salad ( for $15 and loved all of the elements. It was more than I could eat, but was eagerly gobbled up by The Drude.

    They have eclectic, mismatched tableware which always makes me happy.

    It's local and a chilled place to hang out. I give it two thumbs up.