Co-owners Jesse Girard and Richard Lambert (Parts and Labour, Dog and Bear, Ace Hill Beer) have opened a pub downtown, but The Anne Boleyn is much more than a mere barroom.
Lambert lived in Canterbury, England (population of 151,200, as of 2011 Census) until the age of 21, and despite being in Canada for over a decade, still has a charming British accent.
Doing a proper British pub is in his blood –his father's The Dog & Bear on Rough Common Road in Canterbury, was the inspiration for Lambert’s pub on Queen West of the same name, and now this, a bigger, slightly more posh-looking version.
But just because it’s a big space, don’t think the guys have gone all big-box on us. “We’re still Queen West guys,” Lambert says. The proof is right here in the room. The fun, casual, neighbourhood vibe, cool space, and stellar food and drinks – it’s just what these guys do.
They’re about building a community. And let’s face it, the area hasn’t been the “nightclub district” for years now – isn’t it time it took on an exciting new identity? Who better to do it than these fellas, who set up in Parkdale way back, before it was cool?
Pub fare is often subpar, mushy, frozen and salt-laden. Not here.
Executive Chef Brent Pierssens (Parts and Labour) has created elevated British grub, sometimes with a modern take, and other times stay true to tradition. Either way, his use of fresh, seasonal ingredients and skilled execution transcends the dishes to refined, and often sophisticated, fare.
Classic plates include hors d’oeuvres Devils on Horseback ($8) and Deviled Eggs ($5), Toasts (Mushrooms $8, Cheese $8), Butler’s Steak ($21), Guinness Braised Beef Short Ribs ($20), Bangers and Mash ($17) and Full English Breakfast ($17) of two fried eggs, bacon, pork sausage, beans, mushrooms, tomato, hash browns and toast – available all day.
Go farther abroad with Nachos ($16), salads ($10-$16), sandwiches ($14-$18), soup ($7-$9), Tagliatelle Bolognese ($17) and Chicken & Waffles ($19) featuring half jerk chicken, pumpkin spiced waffle and coleslaw. And be sure to get the epic P&L Burger ($18).
You might have come in to grab a pint and watch the game, but you’ll come back for this enticing menu. Maybe even as soon as tonight. The awesome price point ($5-$21) doesn’t hurt either.
Bar Manager Lewis McIver (Bar Raval, Bar Isabel) has “something for everyone. You can come in and have a tin of beer, cheap glass of red or something more elevated.”
The approachable cocktails including an Old Fashioned ($14), AB G&T ($12) with housemade tonic, and Sherry Cobbler ($13), allow him and his team to “execute everything really well, every time.”
Vinos by the glass and bottle from across the globe include tasting notes (nice touch). There’s even a biodynamic and organic bottle-aged cava on the list (Pares Balta $11/6 oz., $17/9 oz., btl 44).
From domestic draught ($5/12 oz., $8/20 oz.), premium draught ($6/12 oz., $9/20 oz.), tall cans ($8/473 ml), bottles ($7) and ciders ($8), the choice is yours, from MacKinnon Brothers Ale to simple premium Ace Hill Vienna Lager.
(Note: the tall bottles of cold water on the table are much appreciated. No needing to wait around to find a server to fill your glass.)
Fixtures and Fittings
The space, just 50 yards from the corner of Queen and Peter, took 18 months to complete, but it was worth the wait.
Inspired by London’s Berners Tavern, interior designer Lisa Ho created an elevated room with swish lighting and brass tables. Despite the 4,200 square-feet, luxe fixtures and dramatic high ceilings, the room exudes a warm, comfortable and casual atmosphere.
Bonus: the patio is covered, so condo-dwellers and theatregoers alike can still enjoy the outdoors despite the rain.
Off the Menu
Pimm’s Cup ($12) The quintessential British cocktail of 2 oz. Pimm’s No.1, lemon and ginger ale is light and refreshing – ideal for this warm weather. It’s also waaay easy drinking, so don’t be surprised when another round immediately follows.
Scotch Egg ($7) While many restaurants are serving up their versions of the dish likely invented in the 1700’s, Lambert was adamant of keeping it true to the classic bar snack from home. It’s bang on. With a perfect pork sausage crust ratio that adheres to the egg with aplomb, gherkins on the side, and a brown sauce that demands to be bottled and sold separately, it’s the kind of dish you can’t help but order upon every visit. For those who’ve never been a fan? That’s because you haven’t had this one yet.
Zucchini Noodle Bowl ($14) Salad bowls, including these oodles of noodles, are flying outta the kitchen, and it’s no wonder. Packed with nutritious ingredients (shredded red cabbage, thin strips of red pepper, edamame, carrot ribbons, tender kale, green onions and slivered almonds), zucchini noodles so long twirling them like spaghetti is in order, and a light miso dressing, you can eat well without sacrifice. Phew!
Fish & Chips ($19) Have a craving for real fish and chips? Look no further than this knockout dish. After all, the light, crispy beer batter with just a pinch of salt (the perfect amount) gives way to fresh, never frozen haddock, yet stays put like a good batter oughta.
The chips – cooked three times – have the perfect consistency of soft in the middle, golden exterior, so cleaning your plate is just a given. With minty mushy pea, house-made tartar sauce on the side, and not a lick of grease on the plate, the dish is so authentic, the only thing missing is the real newspaper lining and damp English seaside air.
Chicken Pot Pie ($16) Say hello to the best pot pie in the city. It starts with a blanket of fluffy puff pastry across the top, finished with Maldon salt and parsley (Brits have this thing about parsley). Tucked underneath is a sizeable portion of shredded chicken, firm peas, diced carrots, pearl onion, and cubed potatoes cooked until tender, in a silky, creamy veloute, and served piping hot. This will be one of the best things to happen to you this season.
The restaurant accommodates 250 guests with room for 80 on the patio.
At the Stove: Brent Pierssens
Head Honchos: Jesse Girard and Richard Lambert
FOH: Cam Macdonnell
Map it: 117 Peter St. (at Richmond - note: the entrance is on Richmond)
Monday to Friday – 11 am to 2 am
Saturday – 7:30 am to 2 am
Sunday – 8:30 am to 2 am
Phone it in: 416-901-1536
How Cool is This?! Lambert named the public house after one of the most influential woman of the Tudor period. “She was high principled, very well-read, an original feminist always fighting for what she really believed in.” He even took a trip to where Anne Boleyn was beheaded, and where she and Henry VIII were married. “I’m fascinated by this stuff.”
The Anne Boleyn is also open until 4 am for TIFF 2017 from September 14 to 16.
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