Monday, June 13, 2016

The Pomeroy House: Excellent food, elegant space

The evening started on a high note, with the fries: a heaped bowl of golden, crispy potatoes, sliced a bit thinner than is usual, lightly salted, with an adorable pot of malt mayonnaise for dipping (a second soon appeared to supplement it). All six of the women at the table agreed on the superior taste and texture of these indulgent snacks. I was thrilled at the absence of truffle oil or salt, duck or goose fat, or oddball spice coatings: these were honest potatoes that had been done right by.

The second indication that the Pomeroy House would be a happy place to spend a Tuesday evening with friends arrived with the drink orders: plenty of interesting wines were available by the glass, as well as beer for those so inclined and, for me (nursing an annoying and lingering headache) a not-at-all boring fizzy lemonade, made in-house and nicely balanced. Kudos for offering a fun option for teetotalers and drivers.

That elegant simplicity persisted through the meal, with ingredients combined in complementary and interesting ways but allowed to shine individually, fresh, sharp flavours, and intense colours. Presentation was beautiful but never fussy; portions were fair, neither overly generous nor disappointingly restrained.

The menu is divided into snacks, appetizers, "mids," and mains, with that third option providing a smaller yet still fully-realized plate for smaller appetites or those hoping to try several courses. Options included meat, poultry, fish, seafood, and vegetarian options (the latter leaning heavily on mushrooms the night we were there; this writer loves them, but knows many herbivores who do not, something the kitchen might consider rethinking).

We tried our hardest to run the kitchen out of Fogo Island cod, with all of us save one ordering it from the selection of mids. The holdout ordered the "hot chicken," two glorious pieces of crispy fried bird laced with hot sauce, served atop a cauliflower puree and wilted kale. She pronounced it excellent, with the promised kick of heat.

That popular cod was not a disappointment to anyone and all the plates went back clean. A thick, gorgeously crisp seared rectangle of fish had clean and enticing flavours of the sea, a perfectly flaky texture, and a crackling finish from the pan. A soft croquette of smoked cod was smooth and punchy, balancing out the sharp green taste of a pile of wilted red chard leaves, while spears of just-cooked asparagus and tiny (no, really tiny) white turnips offered zing and a small pool of leek cream pulled the whole plate together. This is how really great fish should be showcased.

Thanks to the portion sizes, we all had room for dessert, for which I gave fervent thanks when a bright yellow Meyer lemon tart was placed before me. Adorned with crumbled toasted coconut and almonds, the shortbread shell held a smooth, soft, sweet-sour filling that made me long to live in California where the Meyer lemon (a cross between a regular lemon and a tangerine) is widely available. A scoop of honey ice cream, made on the premises, was a cool complement, but the real kicker was the dollop of chèvre cream, made from soft goat cheese, that turned the whole thing into a grownup dessert. I will say that the portions for sweets here make them ideal for sharing, but it wasn't a hardship to have it to myself.

The lone taker for the chocolate terrine found it to be delicious but definitely rich enough to require two mouths; the bite I snagged made me agree, though it was well-executed. I particularly liked the sponge toffee garnish that came with it.

This is, by the way, an elegant and welcoming space in which to dine. Set on  Bank Street in the heart of the Glebe, this long and narrow room was well-lit by a large front window as well as a dozen enviable pendant lamps constructed from heavy, cut-crystal decanters, each a different shape. The navy-blue walls contrast beautifully with the blond-wood tables (no cloths), and the chairs were blessedly comfortable (though I heard the banquettes were built for taller folk and could perhaps use a toss cushion or two to support one's back). The pale blue and grey, softly curvy ceramic dishes were lovely and unusual, a soothing change from ubiquitous sharp white squares and rectangles.

Our server, a young and enthusiastic man with a great smile, took excellent care of us and was both patient and kind; we even had a great chat about the best techniques for making crispy breakfast potatoes. Music in the room was set at the correct volume - audible, but only just - and included a variety of moody electro-pop that I quite enjoyed.

Overall, this is a casual luxe dining experience, on the level of Gezellig or North and Navy. Prices are fair for the quality and portions of ingredients, but for me (and for most) this is a special-occasion restaurant. One worth adding to your list of places to try, in my opinion. I think it's great now and I bet it will keep getting better as it ages, like a fine wine.

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