My wife and I love to go out for dinner. Our “go to” place is the Wellington Gastropub. The food is outstanding, the service top-notch and the atmosphere is extremely casual. A former colleague of mine who was very knowledgeable about all things restaurants once told me you need three things to make it: great food, great service and buzz. The term “buzz” was his way of combining decor, atmosphere and experience into one intangible quality. In our humble opinions, the Welly has buzz to spare.
Unfortunately, business has been slow lately. Really slow. So slow in fact that we’ve had to limit where and when we’ve gone out to eat. Our anniversary was last weekend, so we were really excited to have a night out. Rather than opt for a usual suspect, we decided to try a place we’ve never been before. Our choice: Juniper Kitchen and Wine Bar.
First impressions: Juniper has buzz. You enter into a large dining room, featuring rich shades of brown, and soft lighting augmented by table candles. The floor to ceiling windows (the location used to be a BMW dealership) are impressive, giving guests a wonderful view of a renewed Wellington Village. (Not completely – the low budget motel and gas station across the road are a bit of an eyesore, but you can’t fault the restaurant for their neighbours.) The dining room was full, adding to the atmosphere and the sense that we were in for a great experience.
Unfortunately, the rest of the trifecta – great food and great service, was a little hit and miss on this night. It was our anniversary, so we opted for a pre-dinner cocktail. Our server ordered our drinks, and then returned to see if we had any questions on the menu. A few minutes later, he returned to say that our drinks were on their way, and take orders for our food. The kitchen then sent our amuse bouche (a plantain, ricotta and cashew fritter drizzled with balsamic reduction – delish), and then our drinks arrived. Our appetizers appeared almost immediately after. We would have preferred to relax with our cocktails for a few minutes, enjoying our time out and soaking in the atmosphere.
I was having trouble deciding whether to have the Quebec pork loin main and the beef tartar appetizer, or the pork belly appetizer and the Alberta beef tenderloin main. The decision was made for me – pork belly wasn’t available that night. My wife chose the apple cucumber curried salad with house made feta, along with Indian buttered chicken breast. Both of my wife’s selections were absolutely delicious – with the perfect amount of curry. The tartar was some of the best that I’ve ever had – topped with an olive tapenade to give the beef some additional flavour. The maple pork loin tasted good, if a little dry. The highlight of the plate was the sweet potato fritters – perfectly puréed on the inside and golden crispy on the outside.
Sommelier Eric Belchamber was extremely helpful navigating the extensive wine list and choosing an option that would suit both the curried butter chicken, and the sweeter maple pork. After offering his advice and a taste of two options, we settled on a 2009 Domaine St Roch chardonnay.
Dessert consisted of a banana fritter in a sesame coconut batter served with homemade peanut ice cream (to quote my wife, “heaven on a plate”) and the lemon orange crème brulé (less than satisfying).
Overall, it was a good but not great experience. Given the buzz that Juniper gets from numerous people whose opinions I value, I suspect that we caught the staff on an off night. Will we be back? Probably, after we knock a few more “must try’s” of our list.~SS
Stuff we’ve been up to
Stuff we’re talking about:
Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.
Stuff caught on camera:
Just stuff:addiction anniversary apple Baan Thai balsamic barbecue barley Beau's beef tartar beets blue cheese breakfast Brookstreet Hotel buffet caesar salad Chardonnay Chef Caroline Ishii couscous croutons curry Elgin garlic goat cheese hamburger jambalaya jerk Juniper Justin Rutledge leek Loblaws maple syrup Mardi Gras marinade meatballs meatloaf mushroom mushrooms Pad Thai pasta Pelican Grill pizza Play Food & Wine pop potato chip pot pie poutine ribs risotto salmon sausage sauvignon blanc shake Sidedoor sloppy joes slow cooker snack foods soda soft drink soup spring roll steak Stew street food tacos Thai Thailanna town turkey vacation Vietnamese vinaigrette Wellington Gastropub Winterlude Zen Kitchen Zen Ktichen