Edmonton Restaurant Review: Belgravia Hub

The food menu at Belgravia Hub.

The food menu at Belgravia Hub.

Every single weekday for the last few years, I’ve ridden the LRT from the south side of the city to downtown in the morning and then back again after work. Ten stops along the way, most of which have some sort of association with them. The only one that held no significance to me was McKernan/Belgravia station. From what I could see through the windows as we rolled on by was a largely residential neighbourhood with a school across the street. I would never have suspected that a fantastic restaurant lay in the area’s midst.

I started hearing raves about a place called Belgravia Hub (@BelgraviaHub) from a few of my university classmates when we met for a catch up. Naturally, I Googled the restaurant to see where it was located and, despite seeing it on the map, I still couldn’t quite place where exactly it would be should I step off the train at that stop and proceed to make my way there. I’m terrible with directions though, so it didn’t necessarily surprise me. I continued to think that if I looked hard enough down the street as we continued down the track, I’d spot it, but I never could. It turns out it’s tucked in a little too far for that. Then, the second annual list of Edmonton’s best eats was published by The Tomato in March of 2014 and the eatery debuted at No. 45. I became more determined to try this place out. Of course, other plans and life got in the way last year and it never happened.

The bar of the restaurant.

The bar of the restaurant.

I did eventually make my way there with a friend (by car) this January. Starving as we circled the block, the lights from the unassuming building were like a beacon calling us in. Located in a tiny strip at 76 Avenue and 115 Street there are a decent amount of parking spots in their lot as well as on the street to match the number of diners that they can accommodate at any one time. With less than a dozen tables and about eight bar seats, it’s quite a small establishment. Yet, it has a sleek and simultaneously homey feel that really makes you feel welcome.

Since we had made a reservation ahead of time, we were directed to a table immediately. It was fairly early, so it was rather quiet, but business did pick up later in the evening. The server was very friendly and made a few recommendations for drinks. We opted for lemonade over beer or wine this time, and we also decided to start with an order of their corn fritters.

Corn fritters to share and glasses of lemonade.

Corn fritters to share and glasses of lemonade.

The fritters arrived at our table piled high in a silver bucket. Looking plump, they were accompanied by sides of smoked ketchup and strawberry jam. Dense enough, so the fritter stayed together when cut open, they were warm and soft with a nice crisp shell. Slathered with the smoked ketchup, they were a savoury treat that seemed to have a bit of a kick to it. On the other hand, when spread with strawberry jam, we ended up with that delectable combo of salty and sweet flavours. Honestly, I couldn’t decide which I preferred. Both combinations were excellent and, if there wasn’t more food on the way, I would have been happy to eat those corn fritters all night.

Nevertheless, we continued on with our meal. My friend selected the sweet pea gnocchi while I couldn’t say no to the braised beef shortrib. Generously portioned, the giant pieces of handmade gnocchi dumplings were swimming in a creamy dill sauce, which was topped with a beet salsa. The sauce was a good consistency with the scent of the herb coming through nicely. It tasted and felt rich without being overly heavy. The beet salsa provided a needed sweet and earthy flavour as well as additional texture. The shortrib was just spectacular. The meat from the two decent sized pieces of shortrib on the bone were really enough for two meals (I took half of my food home). Succulent from marinating in its juices, the meat just fell apart. Paired with the an apple cabbage slaw that provided crunch, bitterness and tang to the dish and a warm dill potato salad that came off like more of a Dijon with the use of mustard seeds, this was, to me, home-style cooking at its finest.

As full as we were, to finish off our dinner as we discussed our upcoming vacation, we had to sample a couple of their desserts. Because my friend polished off her plate of gnocchi, she went with that day’s choice of sorbet – green apple – and I chose the chocolate beet cake. The sorbet was smoother than I expected it would be and sweeter, too. Not too sugary though, so it was a great palate cleanser. While the initial bites of the chocolate beet cake were good, it was almost like the density of the cake made it seem drier than it should have been. Covered with a layer of ganache instead of the usual frosting and just a little bit of caramel on the plate, I liked the flavour, but the texture could have been improved upon.

All-in-all, I loved Belgravia Hub. The service slowed as the night progressed as there was only one server working and it got busier the later we were there. Thankfully, we weren’t in any sort of rush, so we didn’t necessarily mind that. Most importantly, the food surprised me. I’d heard it was good, but most everything I tried surpassed my expectations, so I’m excited to return and eat something different off the menu. The restaurant, open for about two years now, still comes across as a hidden treasure. In a way, I hope it stays like that, but I also wish the establishment the very best because this is a treasure that you want to keep for a long time to come.

For a more in-depth look at this establishment’s involvement in the local community and its efforts towards sustainability visit The Local Good to read my profile of Belgravia Hub.

Edmonton Restaurant Review: Canteen

A close-up photo of the seared duck...beautiful.

A close-up photo of the seared duck…beautiful.

Within the past year, I have made it to Canteen (@Canteenyeg) on 124 Street just two times, the second of which was about 11 months after the first. Taking such a long break between visits was not due to the quality of the food. On the contrary, the first meal I had was delicious. I’ll chalk up the delay to Edmonton bursting at the seams with great restaurants that are kicking ass and taking names while keeping me from going back to previously tried eateries.

However, Canteen (sister establishment to the beloved Red Ox Inn) did warrant another tasting, especially since it has made The Tomatos list of 100 best eats and drinks in Edmonton for two years in a row now (No. 8 in 2013 and No. 40 in 2014). My initial dinner at the establishment happened well before my friend and I decided to tackle the 2013 restaurants. As such, I felt that we needed a more recent evening sampling their menu before I could give Canteen an actual review.

During our original meal we had chickpea fries to share as our appetizer. Then my friend followed that up with an entree of white fish (likely halibut, tilapia or cod) as well as the bread pudding for dessert. For my main, I selected the lamb, and to finish off my meal, I had the chocolate ganache. Supper was incredibly filling, but completely satisfying.

This last dinner in October was no different. Arriving probably 15 to 20 minutes earlier than our booked OpenTable reservation, we were greeted warmly by the hostess who took us right to our table.

The interior of Canteen...very modern and industrial.

The interior of Canteen…very modern and industrial.

Our server came by to say hello, so we each chose a beverage off of the menu – a cider for myself and a cocktail for my friend – and we decided to split an order of the corn fritters with smoky maple syrup to start. I noticed that, while the selection of items changes regularly at Canteen, a number of the dishes remained the same as previous. That’s not a bad thing though. It kind of ensures that what you’re eating is likely what has remained popular with patrons and that, if you loved that plate, you’ll probably be able to get it when you return. The corn fritters were very tasty. Nice and fluffy, but crisp on the outside like little beignets, they were savoury and just a tad spicy. Once dipped in the smoky maple syrup that came with them, the sweetness from the sauce created this excellent contrast.

An order of the sweet and spicy corn fritters to share on our second visit!

An order of the sweet and spicy corn fritters to share on our second visit!

When duck is available in any form, both of us have a hard time passing it up, so we didn’t. We each ordered the seared duck breast for our entree. Beautifully plated, the dish looked like a work of art – slightly pink meat with seared brown skin, bright green snap peas, dark beluga lentils, magenta and white butter radishes, deep burgundy cherry mostarda and dollops of green garlic. Yet, it wasn’t so gorgeous as to stop us from polishing everything away. The duck breast was the most tender I have ever eaten. You could literally almost cut the meat apart with only a fork. The meat was juicy and the skin and fat gave it some bite as well as amped up the flavour without being overly salted. All of the other additions to the plate created a fantastic balance of textures.

The two of us opted to move along to another location for dessert, but before we did, I asked to have a look at the menu. Their amazing bread pudding, which I happily had a bite of when my friend ate it the first time, is not currently being offered. A different variation of the chocolate ganache I had eaten graces the list, as does a lemon crema and a poppyseed cake. I’m certain that no matter what is consumed here, it’ll be scrumptious.

Canteen's dessert menu on our last visit in October.

Canteen’s dessert menu on our last visit in October.

Canteen is just one of many wonderful establishments that has popped up in the last few years, and I can definitely say that it is one worth trying.

For a more in-depth look at this establishment’s involvement in the local community and its efforts towards sustainability visit The Local Good to read my profile of Canteen (and Red Ox Inn).