The latter half of 2011 brought with it changes to the Hintonburg neighbourhood that have been nothing short of amazing. Many new businesses opened their doors from Isobel’s Cupcakes & Cookies (a cupcakery) to Back Lane Café, 10Fourteen Tapas Bar, Red Sea Cafe (a home-style Ethiopian restaurant), and Burnt Butter.
We haven’t been able to drop by all the new places yet, but we did get in a couple of visits to the newly opened The Hintonburg Public House (HPH).
Owner Summer Baird, formerly co-owner of the Urban Pear (151 Second Avenue) in the Glebe, put together a beautiful restaurant. HPH is charmingly rustic. An open concept with large windows at its front, sunlight pours into the restaurant during the day, filling it with light.
The furnishings, wall accents, and long bar all have a countrified theme.
Even the dishware and flatware reflect the HPH’s country retro-chic.
The HPH bills itself as serving “an exciting rendition of traditional pub fare and comfort food all made in house from scratch using local ingredients.”
First Visit – Early December 2011
Don and I first dropped in for a late Sunday brunch. I chose the crispy cod and fries with English curry mayo ($14).
The fries were beautifully crisp, but a tad over-seasoned. The cod was freshly fried, crunchy on the outside, and moist on the inside. The coating reminded us of tempura batter. The curry mayo was an interesting change from typical tartar sauce.
Don chose the pulled duck hash with a poached egg, green onions, and plum chutney ($14).
Don and I really enjoyed this dish. I stole a few bites when he wasn’t looking. Savoury and earthy duck confit, sweet chutney, crunchy griddled potato, and fatty egg yolk made perfect bites.
Although the food was quite good, we were somewhat surprised by the serving sizes. Finding our dishes portioned smaller than expected, a typical person would likely need to order another side to satisfy a healthy appetite. We also found the service friendly, but uneven. It was tough to catch the servers’ attention, especially when we needed our water glasses re-filled. Still, it was a good first visit and we decided to return to try something from the lunch/dinner menu.
Second Visit – Christmas 2011
A few days after Boxing Day, a longtime friend, who was home for the holidays, came to visit us. Amazed at the changes to Hintonburg since he left Ottawa, he was eager to try the food at HPH. So, we visited for a late lunch.
One of the things I really like about HPH are its hours. Depending on the day of the week, the restaurant opens at 11am or 11:30am and closes at 2am daily. Its late hours are sure to be a hit in the neighbourhood as there are no other eateries open so late.
Since our first visit, there were changes made to the entrance, installing an alcove, blocking out the cold weather, and adding some hooks for coats.
For drinks, our friend opted to try his first Kichesippi beer ($6.50) while Don had his usual cranberry juice.
Feeling famished, I ordered a bar snack of spiced chicken livers, apple and soffritto ($6) and the beef shoulder steak with fries, HPH Sauce and aioli ($19).
The spiced chicken liver was a good snack, although it could have used some more crisps as I found the pâté rather strong tasting. Seeing three people sharing the dish, our server returned with a generous helping of crisps. Meanwhile, I found my steak very disappointing. The price was rather steep considering the plate consisted of five small slices of meat that were tough to chew, over-seared, and tasted overwhelmingly of red wine. The fries, beautifully crisp on the outside and gently seasoned, were the highlight of my plate. If our friend had not joined us for lunch, I would have sent this dish back.
Don chose the beef burger with cheddar and fries ($14).
He found it to be a rather decent cheese burger. The beef patty was flavourful, well-seared, and well seasoned. The bun was fresh and toasted, something too many eateries forget. He also quite liked the pickalili cauliflower and cucumber he found on his patty.
Service-wise, it was still uneven, “standoffish” as another friend would later aptly describe it. However, as a newly opened restaurant (months new), uneven service is to be expected and should work itself out.
Despite these inconsistencies, HPH shows a lot of promise. The staff, both front and back of house, are new. The menu is still in flux.
At the HPH’s kitchen’s helm is a Chef we recognize from his days at the Whalesbone Oyster House, Kris Kshonze (Chef Charlotte Langley’s former sous). He has made us many a wonderful plate.
Don and I will definitely be back for another visit.
The Hintonburg Public House
1020 Wellington Street West
Walk-in only, reservations only for groups of 10 or more
Children’s menu available