330 King St W, Toronto
Another one of Peter Oliver and Michael Bonacini's babies, O&B is part cafeteria, part full-service restaurant, with all the wood, glass and metal (and gorgeous pops of orange Le Creuset dishes) that entails opening up a restaurant these days, it's also in the new Bell Lightbox building.
In the company of several foodies, including Hobography, his family, AC, and AL who is our resident food and drink expert and founder of Foodies Toronto, our verdict is?
Well, O&B Canteen is no great shakes.
Here's what we ate:
I started with a Soltice Mojito (it's listed on the menu as such, but makes me wonder if they meant Solstice?) with loads of raspberries - a juicy, refreshing drink with a hint of mint, I slurped every last sip, and not only because it was $10.
They have only two beers on tap: Mill St. Tankhouse (sm $5, lg$7) and Stella Artois ( sm $6 and large $8) and the sizes arrive in tiny glasses. The wine was served in a slightly more reasonable portion. The rest of the beers (more Mills St., Keith's, Bud, Guinness, Leffe etc.) are bottled.
The Steak Frites ($21) was the best dish on the table, but discussions were had on how it was cooked.
The "Chef's Daily Creation" was a hand-made pappardelle with some type of sausage and mushrooms, which took forever to arrive and once it did looked like an appetizer in size.
It didn't fare well in flavour either; I'd like to quote Hobo here on how it was:
"It was overcooked, bland and flavourless."
The Gallo Mussels ($18) arrived in a hot pot looking quite beautiful, as did the french onion soup; I can't vouch for the taste.
The Basket of O&B Artisan breads (with spread and olives $8), I wish had more craft to them...as they were, they didn't excite.
Hobo ordered the Chicken Liver Parfait (cumberland sauce, pickle, baquette $8) and ended up having to request several refills of "baquette" as there was decidedly more parfait than "baquette" and I think we'd have preferred the entire "baquette" instead of only slices of it. Interestingly, you can find Michael Bonacini's Chicken Liver Parfait recipe, here.
The refills were also greatly needed since Hobo's fresh pasta didn't arrive for 45 minutes.
My All Day Breakfast ($14) was decent - the sausages and bacon absolutely delicious but the potatoes were luke warm and the bread, kind of boring. It didn't help that the butter and jams had to be requested several times before making an appearance and the hot sauce didn't make it to the table for a while.
The house-made "Canteen Catsup", spiced with cinnamon, coriander and celery seed, wasn't very good. I think it's best not to mess with what Heinz has perfected.
The desserts, however, managed to impress.
The Lemon Posset w/ chantilly, berries ($6), Soma Brownie w/vanilla ice cream ($7), Fresh Fruit w/ mint, lemongrass syrup and sorbet ($8), Espresso Affogato w/ almond biscuit ($5) Gateau Basque w/ vanilla ice cream ($7), were all divine; each carrying a distinct flavour. Muah!
Overall, I think everyone felt a disappointed. While they've got the signiture O&B style down, the service definitely needs work. It was waaaaaaaaay too slow for the type of idea they're selling. If you're calling it a canteen, it should operate as one.
I'll give the service a few months and go back to try the breakfast and those butties...perhaps with Lurgs?