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Restaurants

Ceili Cottage

Posted by Beverly Cheng / Reviewed on July 11, 2009 / review policy

Ceili Cottage TorontoCeili Cottage has only just opened its doors, but the lively atmosphere and charming surroundings are quickly establishing this "public house" as a favourite among Leslieville locals.

Publican Patrick McMurray, international oyster shucking champion and restauranteur extraordinaire behind Starfish has dreamt of creating a typical Irish "local" for years. A proponent of Irish culture, Patrick transformed this formerly rundown garage into part pub, part Irish dance studio. Over pints on any given night there's a gentle rhythmic thudding of 8-hand step dance through the walls.

The pub is split into a front foyer and back bar, both adorned with unique pieces of Toronto history. Pillars and beams hail from the Distillery District, an area known for the influx of Irish emigre workers in the late 19th Century. A church pew and communion table from a Presbyterian church in the Junction, also add a stylish touch to the rustic decor.

Ceili Cottage Ceili Cottage
We follow a little trail towards the electric red door and happily settle on the spacious patio. Everyone is in a good mood, especially when we discover most menu items hovering around the $10 mark. Pints of Guinness ($4.39 ½pint, $6.52 full pint) wash down our shared platter of 6 raw Malpeque oysters ($14). The mollusks are fresh, slimy and go down easily, leaving a cool saltwater aftertaste.

Catching our eye is the "Hashed on Tuesday" special - Hashed potatoes, roast, egg ($10). A rotating line-up of specials feature the Sunday night roast re-invented every day of the week. Leftovers never sounded so tempting!

Before the dish arrives, I imagine a generous helping of a juicy golden rump roast over a bed of hashed potatoes, crispy fried egg and a trickle of gravy. Others believe it likens more to a golden mound of corned beef hash.

Instead, the few scraps of charred fatty meat ends, a soggy potato pancake and poached egg all seems like a cruel joke.

Ceili Cottage

The burnt macaroni and cheese ($8) meant for an infant in both size and blandness is no improvement.

Ceili Cottage

The defeated recipient of this dish exclaims: "I think Kraft would've been better than this!" All expectations are shot by the time my onion soup ($8) arrives, so I'm not surprised when it's completely devoid of flavour. I am, however, slightly perplexed to find the aged white cheddar clumped to the bottom of my cup. While I understand the need for this onion soup to set itself apart from the better known French version, fishing for half melted cheese at the bottom of my teensy cup is simply sloppy.

Ceili Cottage

The peat smoked Scottish salmon ($14) with sour cream, lemon, pickled shallots and two scraggily pieces of bread is better in comparison but overpriced. Our grumbling bellies are aching for a breadbasket, but bread and butter at the Cottage would have set us back $3.

Instead, we down our pints and make a beeline to Queen Street where we proceed to wander elsewhere to satisfy our raging hunger pangs.

Despite our disappointing meal, I'm still intrigued to see how this quaint little place shapes up in the coming months. Many themed events like a locally- sourced food market on Sundays and matchmaking evenings are in store. I only hope that with time, an equal amount of effort will be put into the kitchen. Go for their assortment of beers on tap and stay for a floor thumping music session, but be sure to arrive with a full stomach first!

Ceili Cottage
Ceili Cottage

Photos by Claudia Lama

Discussion

61 Comments

woody d / July 11, 2009 at 12:40 pm
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Ahhhh. the many flavours of hype. I too, with my mate and maw, rolled down a few blocks to meet it head on about a week back.

We felt like sitting inside, asked if we could take a corner pew, and settled in with menus we helped ourselves to. And that's the whole story.

Not once did any of the (I counted 5+ a manager) servers even LOOK at us as they paraded back and forth before us. One ( she was also an Irish-style dancer) spent five minutes explaining this to the table she was serving next to us. Didn't even acknowledge our presence.The room had one table of five, and on two-top leaving.

Now, right across the street is a lovely local restaurant named Edward Levesque's Kitchen. I mention this to my increasingly ravenous party as we continue to wait.... for....something.

I don;t know what the limit is that most people wait for in such situations, but about 10 minutes is mine. I can't remember the last time I walked, but as we rose to leave, I thought it best to tell someone ( if they even cared), so I find the manager, tell him we're leaving and why, and his response is "Can I get you something?" Err, no, thank-you....the chance has come and gone.

The ending is very happy. We had one of the best dinners in recent memory at Edward's. If that didn't suit, we had a choice of five or six fine joints to choose from inside a 3 minute walk.

So, Patrick. Welcome to the nabe....but don't take success for granted. If you want to serve customers, hire wait staff, not dancers who can't, or won't. Finally, the food here in L'ville is pretty damn good. We won't wait long for you to find stride.
DRock / July 11, 2009 at 08:42 pm
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This is unfortunately consistent with my last (ever) visit to Starfish. Too bad... I love oysters.
Smiley / July 12, 2009 at 03:38 am
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I took my Irish friend there who was missing flavour from home.
It was a weekday evening, and the place was fairly busy, but there were empty tables and we settled down. 10 minutes passed and no one seemed to want to serve us, so I grabbed menu myself, literally grabbed a waiter walking by, and ordered drinks. We ended up waiting for 50 minutes before we got served food. My banger with potato was lukewarm and bland (it reminded me of school canteen food), but my friend said oysters were good, even though he doesn't think oysters would have much to do with anything typically Irish. He thought the place was very pretentious, and didn't resemble anything that he was used to back home in Ireland. Overall, it lacked the basic hospitality to entertain guests neither with service nor food.
We went back to his home and we had second dinner with simple colcannon that we whipped up and glasses of Jameson. I guess we don't need Ceili and we won't care for this snob shack.
kevin / July 12, 2009 at 11:08 am
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I havent been there yet - but here's a suggestion, rather than wait for ages before being served for food, and getting irritated about it, just politely ask one of the waiters "Sorry, would it be possible to grab a menu to order a bit of food please? Thanks" and there's your problem solved. How hard is that, you babies?
Patrick McMurray / July 12, 2009 at 11:46 am
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Thanks for all of the comments, and the review. All is fair, and will be discussed with my staff. As we settle into a pace of life that brings us into a very friendly neighbourhood, we have been over-run with folks, and have gone through more food, and drink than I have expected in a month, in only 16 days. We are using only small market farm produce from the Kawartha area, and we make all of the food ourselves, bread, sausage, soup, roasts. So it takes time to hit those volumes all of a sudden. I'm not making excuses, just informing of what we do, and that we will hit the groove of volumes, and training new staff very soon. We welcome comments like this so we can improve what we do to meet your needs. We are working towards creating a fun, family atmosphere, un-pretentious, and welcoming at all times.
I would hope as well, that if you are having trouble with anything in an establishment (not just mine) that you would ask for some help, and attention, and the folks there would be more than happy to get what you need.
As for the "Irish-ness" of the place, I did not have it designed. The building is all original, 1884, and I did most of the detail work myself. I think that the Cottage room has a feel of the West of Ireland, where seafood, and Oysters do become a part of most menus - at least the ones that I went to. It is not quite done yet, as there are pictures, and many details to add into the place, once we settle into out new shoes.
Hope to se you soon, Patrick
Jen Ford / July 12, 2009 at 05:07 pm
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To be honest, it's just nice to finally have a decent pub to go to in Leslieville. The service was great when I went, and though I didn't sample much of the menu, the mushrooms on toast was pretty tasty. I might even head back tonight with a few friends of mine.


Anyway, I think this place could become a real staple of the neighborhood. And to Patrick--ever think of starting an Irish music session on the patio once a week?
Louise / July 12, 2009 at 05:15 pm
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I went earlier this week for a staff dinner/gig and I thought it was great. I agree the portions could be more generous, but I enjoyed the food. I think I would return for drink and oysters, and try to just bear in mind that you need to be a bit.... forward haha to get what you need.

Ironically, some of us found our servor returning to our table TOO OFTEN rather than letting us finish our drinks and giving us a bit of space. She was very friendly, but after reading the comments above I wonder if energy is disproportionately geared towards larger tables.

I do love the atmosphere inside. That won lots of points. I didn't find it too pretentious.
woody d / July 12, 2009 at 11:39 pm
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I'm glad some air has been cleared and that Patrick took the time to address the review.

The neighbourhood wants an unpretentious alternative pub with delicious, simple fare ( locally sourced when possible) where the service is attentive and sincere.

Patrick wants the same in a creative, attractive setting with a strong Irish twist or two.

I'm sure the twain will meet at 1301 Q East. It's already showing strong signs. Good luck Patrick and Co.
kevin / July 13, 2009 at 01:07 am
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That new pub The Roy (also Irish themed) at Queen & Logan does decent food, and its comfortable for a pint, no outdoor area though.
Patrick McMurray replying to a comment from Jen Ford / July 13, 2009 at 08:48 am
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Hi Jen Ford. I'd love to do just that, but I am not allowed ANY music amplified, or acoustic on the patio - part of my city by-law/AGCO ruled and regs. 40 people max. on the patio, close the patio at 11pm sharp, and no music... makes me sad really, but we can live with it for now...
Music sessions will be hosted by Ena O'Brien on Tuesday nights, inside, but you should be able to hear it outside as well.
Patrick
Bill / July 13, 2009 at 05:24 pm
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I sat on the patio with my wife and 11 mo. old about 2 weeks ago. First time there. It was a beautiful day and overall we had a great time. Our waitress was passable but I'll cut her some slack since it seemed like just her 2nd or 3rd shift. We ordered about 6 food items and they ranged from great (oysters) to crap (mac & cheese).
The space is gorgeous and innovative. If you want a typical Toronto pub out of a kit go down the street to the Roy. Hopefully the Cottage will grow and get the kinks out of the menu. But on my next visit I'm fully expecting a brand new mac & cheese (emphasis on cheese) dish. There is absolutely no excuse to get something like this soooooo wrong.
Steljan / July 13, 2009 at 08:12 pm
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horrible service,
overpriced mediocre food.
Wished you could have warned me earlier Beverly.
Keep up the good work though
Raoul Semehelian / July 14, 2009 at 09:59 am
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Good luck with the place, Patrick, but remember one thing: an oyster-shucker does not a restauranteur make. Bump up the portion size, add sides to entrees (potato salad, house salad, macaroni salad, etc.), and work on presentation, adding garnish like basil leaves, tarragon on mutton stew, and so forth. Yes yes, authentic Irish, I know... if you have problems with suppliers and fresh Ontario products and produce, go straight to the Mennonites, eg. Fresh from the Farm.
Bill / July 14, 2009 at 10:24 am
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Wow. Lighten up people!
Yes, the mac & cheese sucks. It's a joke and difficult to fathom. And the staff is still learning. But Ceili is still the freshed addition to the east end in ages. I've been there once, had an overall great time and I'm looking forward to going back soon.
Give Patrick and his team a little slack and let them get the bugs out.

ps - the pickled egg ($1) was excellent. nice creamy yolk.
David W / July 14, 2009 at 02:09 pm
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I must say, I'm surprised to read the criticism here on the food at the Ceili. I have eaten there twice, and was most impressed both times. I found the menu to be quite novel compared to the standard pub fare offered up at places like the Roy. It could be because I did not try the mac & cheese which seems to be much mocked by the posters here, but the bangers and mash and peat smoked salmon were fresh, flavourful, with I thought ample portions for the price. I suppose there may be some inconsistencies in the kitchen given how new the place is, but I would have to think these will be rectified given the pedigree of the owner (from Starfish, a top seafood place on Adelaide E). Issues I encountered were more related to service - not friendliness, but timing - but given how busy and new the place is, I'd be prepared to grant them a little latitude as they get their feet under them. As for the 'dreaded' owner's wife, I'm not sure if she was there or not when I was, but I found all the staff to be friendly and accommodating, if a little overwhelmed.
scott / July 14, 2009 at 05:06 pm
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People, lighten up! Here you have a unique, authentic new space with the best beer selection in Toronto east of the Don River and a great menu of oysters, smoked salmon, weekly roast, etc; and you're complaining vehemently about a mac and cheese dish? The Ceili Cottage is already one of the five best pubs in Toronto, and it's only been open a couple of weeks. If you don't like the mac and cheese, take your kids to McDonalds where they'll be happier.
Liako & Pam / July 15, 2009 at 11:57 am
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We recently had a casual business meeting at the Ceili and we really enjoyed it. Overall, with very few exceptions, it was great! Friendly, laid-back and unpretentious. The mutton tasted like real mutton (rich, gamey and gorgeous) and the chutney served with it was tart and sweet like it should be. The mushrooms on toast were also a highlight. But the sticky toffee pudding at the end...it was like God himself came down and kissed it. Is this everyone's experience? Obviously not. We can only speak for ourselves. Granted, service does need to be tuned a bit more but that'll come with time. Working in the food world ourselves, we understand what it's like to open your doors and suddenly be swamped with unexpected business and fear of not being able to keep up.

Kudos to Patrick for having a vision for Leslieville and making it happen!

Liako & Pam
Owners, Red Rocket Coffee
Neil replying to a comment from scott / July 15, 2009 at 04:08 pm
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Scott: I haven't yet tried Ceili Cottage - though I am eager to, given the abysmal absence of anything resembling an authentic pub in Toronto. So I can't chime in one way or the other on the state of the food or service; but good on you for defending Patrick's new venture.

That said, to claim the place has "the best beer selection in Toronto east of the Don River"? Good god man. Have you never been to Allen's on the Danforth? Sarah's Cafe, also on the Danforth but further east? Amazing, lengthy and varied beer menus at both. I'm excited to eventually sit at Ceili with a plate of oysters and a pint of Kilkenny or Smithwicks, but for real beer selection I'll be hitting either of those two places.
David W replying to a comment from Neil / July 15, 2009 at 05:08 pm
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Neil, in addition to your typical Diageo Irish brands, they have a good selection of local micro on tap. At my last visit, the offerings included Church Key (the Lager I think), Country Durham (the Hop Addict and a nice Red Dragon cask), the Scotch Irish Session Ale, Mill St. Organic, a wheat beer from McAuslan, and not local but the rarely found O'Haras Irish Stout. So it's probably not as long, but, for my taste anyway, I'd put the quality of their tap list up against Allen's and Syrah's any day. They don't have any bottles though.
Gigi replying to a comment from Liako & Pam / July 15, 2009 at 10:02 pm
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I love the Rocket and I think it was very generous of the owners to write about their positive experience at the Ceili Cottage! I was there a week or so for drinks and some kettle chips and my mate and I enjoyed ourselves. The youngish server seemed quite timid and shy...so we were kind to her and chatted her up. We all started somewhere and we were all new at a job once. Our short stop at the Ceili was nothing like what's being reported here but, then again, we realize that they're a new spot and they will need time to get their act together. Best of luck!
Veryn Ryerse / July 16, 2009 at 09:51 am
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My wife and I were at the Ceili on Tuesday. It was disappointing.

They had sold out of the hast, so the bartender recommended bangers and mash. My wife had the smoked salmon. Took 60 minutes to arrive. 2 sausages swimming in some watery potatoes for 16 bucks! You've got to be kidding.

We left hungry and are unlikely to be back. Service totally unorganized. We were sat at a table for 4 by the staff and then the witchy woman from the front muttered something about us taking us too much room. Note to witchy woman 'it was your staff who sat us there, and we would have gladly given up the table had anyone asked.'

This place needs to get its act together and fast.

Overpriced, poor service, and rudeness = won't be back.
Sacha Gatien Douglas / July 16, 2009 at 10:56 am
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I just don't understand all the anger about this place!
We went about 2 weeks ago on a Friday night and had a great time. Considering they had just opened about a week before, we thought the food, booze, atmosphere and organization were excellent. And our service was totally acceptable considering it was likely her first or second shift.

We had amazing oysters, pickled eggs, delicious salad, very satisfying onion soup, housemade bread and mac and cheese-- everything was very tasty and reasonably priced, considering much of it is locally sourced and organic. The only weak dish was the mac and cheese- bland and not cheesy enough. The food is simple, clean and well-executed.

Our pints were excellent, and I also had some PEC Cider and one of their version of a Caesar rimmed with dulse- which was unique and delicious.

The patio is lovely and the inside is very cool, rustic and cozy- I love that they left things relatively unadorned instead of mucking it up with phony 'pub' decor.

We can't wait to go back and try some more things on the menu and sit on the lovely patio again. Everyone has different experiences, but I've read so many negative things on this board and am surprised. Where we at the same place?
Riuchard replying to a comment from Sacha Gatien Douglas / July 16, 2009 at 12:22 pm
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It seems the anger over the Ceili comes from it being a hit and miss place. I respect that some people have had a good time there, while others have been unhappy with their experience, as we were the night we went. I respect there are growing pains, but since this is supposed to be run by someone who already owns a restaurant (Starfish), and there was already a much-hyped review in The Globe (be sure to reqad the comments at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/food-and-wine/the-ceili-cottage/article1205701/ ) public expectations of a well-run restaurant with decent, properly-portioned food are high.

I can forgive many things, but the fact remains that people are paying good money to the Ceili for their "growing pains," and could easily walk five minutes to other terrific places like Barrio, Fare, Joy Bistro, The Roy, etc.(not Edward Levesque's, that place is an abomination!)

I can't think of one person I know who lives in Leslieville who wants the Ceili to fail! If anything, I want it to become consistent, and for the owners to listen to the comments, and decide for themselves. If so many bloggers say the mac and cheese sucks, improve it. If many comments say the co-manager is a terror, get her working in another area of the restaurant. The place has terrific potential, but there is a lot of room for improvement.
scott / July 16, 2009 at 06:01 pm
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Neil:

What David W. said. Perhaps I should have said "best *draught* beer selection" - that I think is no doubt true by virtue of the cask conditioned beer (the outstanding Red Dragon) alone, plus Hop Addict, O'Hara's Stout, a Church Key offering, Scotch-Irish Session, etc. I have indeed been to the places you mentioned but for quality if not quantity the Ceili has a superior draught list.
Sacha Douglas replying to a comment from Riuchard / July 16, 2009 at 10:10 pm
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Ruichard,
you've made some completely valid points- and yes, there is room for improvement in Ceili Cottage... and in every other restaurant in this city. I have had numerous mediocre to bad experiences in so many restaurants, including some of the ones that you pointed out for praise (and those places have been up and running for a long while, so what's their excuse?!).

We all know that when a restaurant opens, it can usually take up to 2-3 months for them to find their groove. Going in ot our meal, we kind of expected it to not be 'smooth sailing', but were totally impressed. I think it's unfair to imply that a restaurant shouldn't be charging good money while they sort out their growing pains, given the fact that many people have had a great time here.

I think that Ceili Cottage will very quickly work out any kinks and continue to be a mainstay of the east end for many years to come.

btw- Edward Levesque's Kitchen is a fantastic restaurant. To each his own, right?

Gigi / July 17, 2009 at 08:40 am
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I'm torn. I've always believed that we have to allow a new restaurant to find it's feet and, experienced in the trade or not, every place is different. New floor staff (presumably), new space, it takes time. Combine that with Leslievillians (or, judging from some of the nasty comments, Leslievillains) who are gagging for a good pint and a rockin' patio, it's a recipe for a rocky start. It's stressful. People - staff and customers - get testy. I've worked in the service industry and let me tell you, it ain't easy! That being said, the prices are what they are and the chef has experience so that food should at least be good. If you're qualified to make it you should taste it before it leaves the kitchen!

I think it would have been prudent to hire servers who's actually served tables before. The girls are very nice and sweet but I feel sorry for them. When one walks out onto a patio and sees 30 pairs of thirsty eyes staring back, even the most seasoned server would be intimidated. Be kind.

BTW - who's the mean woman everyone keeps talking about?
Alex replying to a comment from Sacha Douglas / July 18, 2009 at 09:12 am
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Sacha, if you are going to the theater and the actors are forgetting their lines and tripping on stage do you chalk it up the the first few shows? I don't. If I want to see mistakes and fumbles I'll buy discounted tickets for the dress rehersal. When you are serving people sub-standard food, coupled with rude service (from the owner no less), they should not be expected to pay full price. Many restaurants upon opening run discounted nights (Nota Bene for example), when they inflict the pain on friends and family. If the staff at the cottage cannot handle the success they should seriously limit even further the amount of people they are trying to serve. The management needs a serious wake up call judging from the posts here.People work hard for their $$ and deserve the best an establishment can offer. When one does not get perceived value how can they not be upset?? Nobody said the hospitality business was easy, but it is just that...the hospitality business.
Mark P / July 21, 2009 at 12:47 pm
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OK guys put the handbags away!
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I've been there five times (I think!?) since they opened, and while I think it's a great place, on one occasion I was slightly disappointed with both the service and the menu offerings. In saying that, there have obviously been growing pains, and considering that I was extremely impressed on four of my five visits there, I've no problems recommending it.
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I got a chance to chat to the bar manager for a few minutes on a quiet (see half full) night last week, and apparently the patio situation is out of their hands. New city by-laws and AGCO regulations covering new patios in the city limit capacity to a maximum of 40 patrons, and also dictate that they must be closed by 11pm nightly. Existing patios are grandfathered in, but new patios fall foul of this crap. He even said that children must be counted as patrons, so even though their patio is licensed for 60-65 by the Fire Dept, they are strictly tied to 40 by the other agencies. Being a new place they don’t want to be closed just after opening, so while it’s frustrating when we’re waiting for a table, I can now see where they are coming from.
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Food-wise I’ve had the onion soup twice (once great, other time just OK), mac & cheese (ok), minced lamb burger on Wednesday (fantastic), mushrooms on toast (excellent), bangers & mash (great sausages, mash a touch too whipped for my liking) and the smoked salmon (very tasty). Also the sticky toffee pudding is sensational! Some friends have commented that when it’s extremely busy the food seems to suffer slightly, along with the service, but I feel that these issues will be ironed out in the coming weeks. I was there last Tuesday and there was a line of about 15 people waiting to get into the place at 7.30pm. The bar, cottage and patio were all full (I’m guessing about 100 people), and there was still a line – on a Tuesday!?? I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted that sort of demand, so I’ll give the staff some leeway for now.
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Plenty of keg lines, and no bottled beers (which is nice – I don’t get the attraction). Great Real Cask Ale called Red Dragon from Durham County Brewing in Pickering, although on Sunday they had changed it to Hop Head from the same brewer which while excellent, doesn’t quite reach the lofty standards set by Red Dragon. Guinness is excellent, also a nice apricot wheat ale from McAuslan’s in Quebec. Have had the Waupoos cider as well, very refreshing and tasty. All in all plenty of choice to suit every palate.
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Some of the servers appears to be young, and quite new to the business – I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a first job for some of them. They are very sweet and helpful, although a little inexperienced which really shows when it’s been busy. I’ve had to call the server on a couple of occasions, but generally it has been fine. One other thing that I’ve noticed and has been commented on by others, is the levels of expectations on some of the patrons, especially those coming from downtown. To me, and I think the owner is in the same boat here, this is a local pub first, and not a restaurant. Sure they want the food to be as good as possible, but judging by some of the comments here and on other sites, and also, dare I say it, by the dress code of some of our fellow patrons coming from outside the neighbourhood, they expect this to be like Starfish East – when it’s not at all. The only places comparable to The Ceili Cottage between the DVP and the Beaches (off the top of my head), are The Roy and Murphy’s Law. Comparing it to Joy Bistro, Barrio’s, Table 17 etc is moot, because it’s a different place altogether. They don't even take reservations, which should give you an idea. Just my $0.02 anyway.
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@ Alex regarding the comments liking it to a theatre opening night – I don’t think that’s a valid comparison. I’ve seen and experienced myself the frustration with the service and food when it’s extremely busy, but what you’re saying is like opening a play in a 500-seat theatre, and having 600 people turning up nightly outside looking for tickets in the opening two weeks – it’s bound to cause problems. I think the demand has taken both the owners and the public by total surprise (see my Tuesday experience above), so you end up firefighting in situations like that. As I said I’ve been more than happy 4-from-5, so I’ll be returning very soon, although I’ll be keeping my eyes opening for some of the things mentioned in other posts!
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4/5 from me for now.
Richard / July 21, 2009 at 05:33 pm
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All:

I find it fascinating that The Ceili Cottage has generated so many contradictory opinions. To the editors of BlogTO, congratulations! Martini Boys just posted a review that mentions many reviews from, well, BlogTO (blush blush:) It is called "Everyone's a Critic: The Ceili Cottage," at http://www.martiniboys.com/Toronto/articles/Everyone's-a-Critic:-The-Ceili-Cottage-12928.html

When a blog quotes another blog, is that akin to the old saying, "Two wrongs don't make a right, but three do"?

I will return to the Ceili to see if service improves... and perhaps try the infamous mac and cheese again.

Note to Gigi: did you go back there? How was it?




Katelyn / July 23, 2009 at 10:24 pm
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I find it surprising that no one has yet to comment on desert?
As a Leslieville resident of just over a year I am very greatfull for a proper local with a real pint of cask.
After living in the UK and returning to the big bad city of lights and shit beer thank God for somewhere close that isn't too shy to omit Molson or Steamwhistle from their menu. Armed with a delicious glass of Hop Head cask I sat on the Ceili patio tonight for the 8th or so time since they have opened. On the night of their commencement I sat at the bar with my boy and we relished in the company of the knowledgeable barman and his employer Patrick (the owner). I have had a few meals at this pub and everytime I have thought... Spot On! I have had a bad encounter with "her" as well but I haven't let it outshine the fantastic food and service that I continue to experience. The young waitstaff do seem just that, young. However they are pretty good! I have worked at many restaurants, many of which were just starting out and it can be difficult to please discerning customers when there hasn't been a rhythm established yet. The food is great. A bit different each time since they make everything there including the bread and the bangers. If I wanted quick easy food with no character that looked and tasted exactly the same each time I would go to the many self proclaimed fast food joints that litter this up and coming neighborhood. When I go out for a meal I am not in a hurry, I am in the company of friends; so if my Macaroni and Cheese takes 45 minutes... good! It means I can yammer on about nonsense for a bit longer before shoveling my nosh. About the Mac and Cheese... why would you order that in a restaurant anyway? It's got to be the easiest thing to make at home and your out for dinner so get something you can't make in 5 minutes on your own stove top.
So as I was saying... desert.
It was delicious. The Sticky Toffee pudding was lush and gooey and tasted totally bad for me! PERFECT!
I also tried the Chocolate and Baileys Tart which didn't taste much of Baileys but was very rich and tasty. My one complaint would be about the pastry which was a bit tough but then again I'm partial to puff:)
I will be back again and again.
oh yea the oysters Moran are also very worth trying, but my favorite will remain the Bangers and Mash!
Check it out if you haven't yet.
If you like potato skins, wings, hockey and light beer flavored with lime that tastes just like Thrills then go elsewhere...
Lets turn Leslieville into something real and decent, the addition of the Ceili is very welcome... hopefully others will follow suit. Turn off the Coors light and lets get some flavour in those glasses!
Sarah B. Hood / July 28, 2009 at 01:17 pm
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I went to Ceili Cottage last Sunday and loved the onion soup, the salad, the drinks selection, the oysters, the peat smoke, the (OMG!) sticky toffee pudding, the dancing and the decor, while my guest loved the roast and the atmosphere overall. The servers were young and unpolished, but did a graceful job of seating people under tough conditions (it was packed because the patio was soaked). And yes, Patrick's wife was there when I went.

I've posted a fuller report elsewhere, but for now would just like to add to the positive notes on this interesting page, and to say that what I think Patrick is trying to create – a place that's informal, intimate and cheerful rather than slick and trendy – is something I like a lot, and I bet lots of other people will too.

Oh, and as somone who tries to buy at least some local meat and produce for home cooking, I think the prices, as they now stand, are rather modest.
JonasOfToronto / July 28, 2009 at 03:55 pm
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I have to say - top-quality, fresh-tasting pints & I'm encouraged to know Ceili are very approachable. A so-so meal should not be at buyer's peril, and it helps the kitchen to know right away what anybody's not happy about. In fact, from my Bavarian travel perspective, I think quality rustic fare, prepared quickly and at reasonable cost, is a wonderful idea. Let's help them tweak it right.

I'd like to know what other people ate & enjoyed at the Cottage?

Also - great general vibe of the place. Cheers Patrick, Owen at bar & those of you I have yet to detain with my banter.
Richard / July 28, 2009 at 09:39 pm
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I tried to give The Ceili a second chance this past weekend, but couldn't figure out when in the heck they were open! Come on, Patrick, mate! Please put out some signage fer Chrissake letting (potential) patrons known WHEN YOU ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS! I think it's great you want to keep the unadorned cottage look, but at least post a sign stating the name of your restaurant, and hours of operation. As much as I want to give you a second chance, you are trying my patience.
Sandra replying to a comment from Richard / July 29, 2009 at 11:17 am
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The hours are on the web site: http://ceilicottage.com/hours.htm
Suze from Leslieville / August 2, 2009 at 01:01 pm
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As someone who has followed the debate over the Ceili Cottage, I agree with comments that the place is a mystery. Look at every single restaurant in Leslieville: Edward Levesque's, Barrio, Joy Bisto, Batifole, Fare, and so forth. They all post their hours; why ther Ceili Cottage think they are somehow "above" posting hours of operation is beyond me. Even worse, why don't they post their menu? Are they afraid people will read other postings about how terrible their food is? We've been to the Ceili twice. Aside from an acceptable beer and spirit selection, the food is very poor, the servers (bless them) are inexperienced and consequently not very good (but are trying), and the attitude of the head woman (manager? owner?) is awful. Once the cold weather comes back, the Ceili will fold like a cardboard suitcase.
Mark P / August 3, 2009 at 03:17 am
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Guys, The hours are posted on their website, what more do you want?
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As I've already said (@ Suze from Leslieville), comparing this place to "Edward Levesque's, Barrio, Joy Bisto, Batifole, Fare, and so forth" is ridiculous, as it's not a bloody restaurant! It's first and foremost a pub (see bar for us in North America! :-)), the food is secondary. As I've experienced, the service and consistency from the kitchen needs some work, but other than that I think that this is a charming place and exactly what the neighbourhood needs. It's not pretentious; it's decent, innovative pub fare that doesn't involve deep fried batter or sports bar food, in a relaxing atmosphere. It's not Starfish East or even a restaurant, it's a pub first and an eatery second.
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Regarding the menu, it's posted on their website, so it's hardly a big secret :- http://ceilicottage.com/pdf/Cottage_Menu_Summer_June2009.pdf , and their hours are also available here :- http://ceilicottage.com/hours.htm.
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@ Sasha Theileman - As I'm sure you can appreciate, those advertisements are from 3rd July and 22nd June respectively, so I think it's a safe bet to assume that they are redundant and that the positions have been filled/the kitchen staff issues have been sorted by now. It's fascinating that someone is referencing an online ad from 6 weeks ago in their criticism of this place. Yes, it has it's flaws, but are we going to root around Google to find other archaic webpages to criticise it over?!?
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I'm the first person to slate a place if it's not up to standard, and I appreciate that a new venue may give people differing impressions depending on what evening you happen to visit, but the amount of nit-picking that goes on over The Ceili Cottage is fascinating!
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On one hand people want a genuine neighbourhood pub, but on the other they want a fancy sit-down restaurant. Make up your minds Leslievillians!
Mark P / August 4, 2009 at 01:49 pm
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Sasha, while it's clear that you've had a bad experience(s) at the Ceili Cottage, I think the consistency and fare has improved over the past few weeks. Personally I don't find the pricing to be an issue at all, although I can fully understand why there was unhappiness at some of the dishes that came out in the first few weeks (one evening my meal was particularly poor, but it hasn't happened since). In my experience, a lot of these problems appear to have been ironed out, although I know that if I had a terrible experience in my first visit to a place, I wouldn't be returning to give it a second chance anytime soon.
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I've been to both The Roy & Murphy's Law multiple times, and while in my opinion their food is generally decent pub fare, I wouldn't call it outstanding at all. In fact I had a similarly disappointing experience at The Roy (lukewarm, overcooked dinner)as I did at the Ceili Cottage (on my third visit I think), yet it wasn't bad enough for me to strike it off my list. And the following time I visited it was back up to an acceptable standard.
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I just wish people would make more of an effort to review a place and write about their experiences, instead of writing things like "crappy food" or "bitchy service" etc. Would people mind expanding on these so we can actually understand what happened, rather that resorting to buzzwords and hyperbole.
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Sasha, when were you there as a matter of interest? Were there issues with your beverages as well as your food? I just feel that while there are problems there, a lot of the major ones appear to have been resolved after the opening few weeks of madness (see people lining up on a Tuesday in my earlier post!). I've had my bad experience there, but all the other visits have been enjoyable, just interested to hear other's views.
six footed Leslievillain / August 4, 2009 at 04:44 pm
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I went with family to Ceili Cottage with high hopes for the following:

Oysters
Beer
Other food
Atmosphere
Service

Sorry to be boring, but I was pleased all around. Patrick gave my 3 year old an oyster shell to lick as we watched him shuck, and on the second visit she ate two oysters (gush of parental pride). The beers were lovely. We must have missed out on the offending lady, and the other servers were there when we needed them. Being value-conscious, we had the largest plate of oysters on offer, and then followed with mains and dessert. The quality of the ingredients is evident, and handling of these ingredients is deft and refined. The surroundings have far more appeal and interest than the Irish Pub Depot feel of the Roy. (I miss Kubo).

Maybe I am partial to Ceili Cottage because a meal that begins with oysters and a good beer puts me in such a happy mood. This is a welcome fresh face in my neighbourhood.
Rudy De La Tour / August 4, 2009 at 10:39 pm
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All,

There is a fair review of The Ceili at Taste TO at http://www.tasteto.com/2009/08/04/pub-crawl-the-ceili-cottage/

Not a bad piece. It is astonishing to compare the photo of the "buried treasure" mac and cheese from Blog TO to the one at this site! It looks almost appetizing. Sadly, the version I got at The Ceili looked exactly like the one on this page: burnt.

As for other pix at Taste TO, I could have done without the Bobbetized sausage banger image, bleh!
James replying to a comment from Patrick McMurray / August 7, 2009 at 09:55 am
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Patrick. Your pub is beautiful. Your food is great. We like you.

But your staff is A JOKE and I won't be going back for a long time. I have never experienced worse service. The waitress who served us seemed utterly disgusted that we wanted to order food, despite being polite to her. I also wanted cask ale and she said "I think we're out," didn't bother to check. Then someone next to me ordered from a different waitress and GOT served real ale!

Thought she was just having a bad day, but other people say they had the same experience.
Rudy De La Tour replying to a comment from James / August 7, 2009 at 10:34 am
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Hi James,

When we went to the Ceili Cottage, the staff was inept, but -- God Bless 'em -- they were trying. This was about three weeks ago, and we haven't been back since because of the inconsistent food quality. The co-manager, or whatever she is (Pat's wife?) left a terrible taste in our mouths that no amount of beer could wash away. Was it a waitress that served you, or the co-manager/Patrick's wife/etc? Some patrons have reported poor service, but not rude service. Maybe the staff are getting just as frustrated with the place as patrons?

Restaurant alert: No, it's not an Irish pub, but Le Papillion is opening next to the park at Eastern and Woodfield (near the Coxwell McDonald's). Can't wait!
nutellapr / August 12, 2009 at 12:39 am
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The number of snooty people continues to grow exponentially as witnessed by the commentary on this site and others. It's a PUB! Not a restaurant. It's seems almost all of the commentary on this site is primarily from the perspective of hard core diners. A "local" is about having a pint and being social, not about sitting at a table stuffing your face talking to no-one. Yes it's pretty sad that they can't get the mac & cheese right, that's fair. Poor onion soup that's fair too. The expectations though need to come back down to earth. COmparing a local/pub to Le Papillion, Ed Leveque, and other specialized dining establishments is unrealistic and irresponsible. If the service is bad, take matters into to your own hands. God forbid you'd have to walk the 30 secs to the bar or have to speak up and ask for something or let someone know you've been overlooked. Hopefully over time the regular crowd are the laid back, more easy going type looking to hear some music and down a local pint that the owners envisioned patronizing the place. Go to the UK and there is no such thing as table service at a local. It's not the way and defeats the purpose behind a local.

Summary 1) reset expectations, this is a pub, not a restaurant 2) place is new. speak up. give feedback. Help out shape the future of the place 3) take matters in your own hand. if the service is slow, go to the bar, order a drink, talk to the person next to you
nutellapr replying to a comment from Mark P / August 12, 2009 at 12:43 am
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Well said!
nutellapr replying to a comment from Katelyn / August 12, 2009 at 12:46 am
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Thanks for being one of the few people to actually start of their commentary talking about the beer! Also try Castro's in the beach or Beer Bistro on King East for great beers!
Randy / August 12, 2009 at 09:42 am
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nutellapr ,

If expecting decent food, good service, and polite staff from a pub makes me "snooty," then I guess I am snooty.

Sure, Ceili is a wannabe pub (calling it Irish doesn't nercessarily make it so). I can name a DOZEN pubs in Toronto that serve better food, have better staff, and have a 100 per cent kinder attitude towards their customers that The Ceili.

"Reset expectations"? Are you on crack? You actually expect patrons to forgive poor-quality food and terrible service because the "Place is new"? The whole selling point of The Ceili was that it was being opened by an allegedly well-known restaurant owner, Patrick McMurray (I say allegedly, because I've never been to his other gastronomic incarnation, Starfish, where the reviews are also mixed). Have you ever eaten in the U.S.? There are dive bars there with outstanding food (eg. New York, New Orleans, Chiocago).

Yes, the beers at The Ceili are decent... but they're decent and a hell of a lot cheaoer at Stratenger's too, where the food is OK, AND they also have a patio. Of course it is fair to compare The Ceili to other restaurants in the immediate area (like, oh, across the freakin' street, duh!).

You don't patronize a restaurant if you don't like it or question the value and service. Do you also date someone because you feel sorry for them? Don't make excuses for substandard service and lousy food based on the place being a "pub."
Amanda replying to a comment from Patrick McMurray / October 15, 2009 at 11:37 am
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I love the idea of this place - I think the atmosphere is fantastic, and it's great having a little pub in Leslieville. The design of the place is spot on.
Unfortunately, the night I went, there was obviously no owner around. It was Thanksgiving weekend, and I was surprised that considering they only opened in August, the owner wasn't there on what could be such a busy weekend.
It showed! I thought the staff were a little unprofessional. Huddling together at the end of the bar, drinking alcohol (is this even allowed?) and generally not making the atmosphere very comfortable.
I would be seriously disappointed if I was the owner of this place and my staff acted like this.
I do hope it changes, as it is such a beautiful spot with great potential!
webcam / November 2, 2009 at 09:16 am
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Ventured out on the weekend looking forward to sticky toffee pudding, having read a small piece in Toronto Life on the new addition to Leslieville.

In short - Food was good. Cottage pie - Delicious. Mutton stew -Tasty but not good value for money at $18 for three pieces of carrot, 4 or 5 pieces of parsnip and 5 pieces of mutton. The broth was delicious ... But a piece of bread could not be had, except for the $3 bread and butter plate. Again, delicious but a 25 cent roll would have done the trick.

Unfortunately the wait staff were, in a word, pretentious. Started with me asking for a drink (a Black & Tan) and then being asked by the waiter what *I* thought was in it, I wondered if I got the contents wrong if I'd still get served?

And the sticky toffee pudding? Delicious.

We eat out about 4 times a week and spend a lot of money in local establishments ... And I won't give someone my business if I'm treated with disdain.
Richard replying to a comment from webcam / November 2, 2009 at 09:39 pm
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Hi Webcam,

Nice review, decent and honest. You are far more polite than I am, and other commentatirs. My wife and I looked forward to this place opening for months, and were terribly disappointed. I've been waiting for several good reviews to appear, and they are few and far between.

When we went there, the staff were inept, but we cut them a lot of slack. Recent reviews talk about them STILL being inept, and it seems they've developed quite the attitude as well. The owners of this place need a swift kick you-know-where, and shouldn't count on the patio crowd to support them during the long, sunless, and gloomy Leslieville winter.

Then again, The Roy is just down the street... :)

Being Frank / April 1, 2010 at 10:08 pm
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Hello people! Where there's smoke, there's fire! Read other comments below.

I will try to be as polite as possible, however it will tough.

I tried, I really tried to enjoy this place, but I just can't....The actual building vibe is very intriguing. It's an older building converted into an Irish pub. It is great building. Kudos to the concept. That is where it ends. The staff is mannerless. The policies are out of another universe. I have about 5 examples of poor staff issues. Let's just say, they need to reconsider their management (being polite as possible).
One example....We arrive at 5:00 pm - we ask for a spot on the patio. ..."sorry, if you want a spot, you must wait outside - or sit inside". hmmmm OK. No waiting list? OK..weird, but we'll sit inside. We have a few pints and have some enjoyable conversation (4 good paying customers). 7:00 pm rolls around...."If you are not eating we will have to ask you to move to the bar". Simple right?..... OK? Is there seating for us? "No, but you can stand at the bar" Are you sure about this?....hmmmm... Is this Irish hospitality? I've been to Ireland and the Irish would be appalled! For that matter, Canadian hospitality?

This is only one example of the many attitude issues. Again, please note below.

Don't be fooled people! This place is a joke!...... Sorry, I tried to be polite! The growing pains should be over! Avoid at all cost!

Signed,
A Polite (as possible) Canadian

Oh ya.....and the food is tasteless too.



Jon / April 2, 2010 at 09:23 am
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I read through most of the reviews on this page and I think that there is a consistent theme here. The place has atmosphere and a unique concept but the service is atrocious.

A year ago Patrick posted that they were settling into life in a friendly neighbourhood. So if that's the case, why can't they take their cues from the people around them. I am not a food critic or a someone that takes Gastronomy too seriously. I am just a local who enjoys a pint from time to time. I don't think it's much to ask for common courtesy.

Don't get me wrong I like the place enough to have been there several times. However, each time there have been problems with the wait staff. Specifically, the waitress / manager - but the others are no better.

It's been awhile now Patrick, no more excuses! There is a load of potential here, the only thing ruining it is your staff!
Rudy replying to a comment from Being Frank / May 6, 2010 at 08:23 pm
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@Being Frank,

Very well-written, and very well-put review, Frank.

I am shocked they are still in business. However, there's business, and there's REPEAT business.... I doubt The Ceili gets much of that anymore.

How many times can paying customers write the same things -- out of food items, lousy staff, MISERABLE "hostess -- over and over again, and Patrick the owner not get the point?

Short and sweet: if you want my business, earn it. There are TONS of stellar restaurants in the area. I was at The Roy last week with my wife, and it was packed. Know why? Friendly service, terrific food, nice atmosphere... THAT'S why people keep going there! Likewise, Tomi Kro, Lil' Baci, Barrio... always great food and great service.

Personally, I'd rather go to The Dunk for dinner than Ceili Cottage; in fact, I've been back to The Duke MORE than I have Ceili... the staff are a hell of a lot nicer.
cam / May 17, 2010 at 06:09 pm
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Hello, I have eaten here twice, oysters both times. All I can say is the atmos is great, a great escape within the city, all I wish for is that you open at least one day a week, say Friday at around 1-2.
SACAllen / June 16, 2010 at 01:32 pm
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I have to concur with others here about the horrible service. I visited late last summer with a colleague. The patio was full so we went to the bar. Stood there waiting for one of several servers and the tender to help us and no one even looked at us. They were busy no doubt. So we sat down at the little stools just a few feet away from the bar waiting for them to catch a breath and get to us. Fifteen minutes go by and nothing. So we left. Very annoying to not even be acknowledged. All you have to do is shout out a 'what can we get you' for heaven's sake. I haven't ventured back since.
Donna / July 25, 2010 at 10:13 pm
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I wanted to like this place. The Ceili Cottage is a really unique space, and feels cosy inside; however, the service is the very opposite.

We had gone twice for a quick drink at the bar, and everything was fine. One Sunday afternoon we went for some snacks and drinks around 4 pm. The pub was half emptry. We had finished our snacks, and were halfway finished our drinks and we contemplating whether to stay for Sunday roast. No sooner did we make our decision to stay for dinner when a waitress came over and told us that customers were waiting for our table (they had literally just walked into the pub), and if we could finish up. We were given the option of STANDING at the bar if we wanted to stay.

I have never experienced anything like this in my life at any restaurant. We couldn't believe how rude this was. It's not like we weren't ordering anything, in fact, we were just about to order more food.

I thought that pubs should make you feel welcome! When I e-mailed the manager to tell him about my experience, his reply was arrogant. He commented about how his pub is so popular, and they can't handle the volume. If they keep churning out the customers like they did to us, he may no longer have the "problem" of a full pub. I will NEVER go back to this place, and I no longer recommend it to my friends.
Being Frank replying to a comment from Donna / August 9, 2010 at 06:33 pm
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Hey Donna,
It sounds like a very familiar theme!
Location is their default for what they call "being busy". It certainly could be busier with your group and mine. I have several friends that have boycotted this place for the same reasons. If Leslieville had more patios, this place would be dead. Their arrogance will show through in the long run...but let's not give up on Leslieville! As you mentioned, there are great spots around. Let's support great food and true hospitality!
Being Frank

alecta megarea / October 16, 2010 at 06:36 pm
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I used to be a big fan, going in regularly and bringing friends. No more. The place is badly managed, with snotty service (when you can get a table). I won't be back.
Gordon / January 17, 2011 at 12:34 pm
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I've been to Ceili a few times in the summer and winter and all times, the food and atmosphere have been amazing and the service respectable. My only complaint is that it gets busy at times and I've had to wait for a table a couple of times but eventually found a table. The place is so seriously unique, I'm glad it's in the 'hood. Cheers.
JP / March 13, 2011 at 09:15 pm
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Do not try Ceili Cottage with more than 3 friends.
6 of us arrived this afternoon around 3pm (Sunday) and we were told that when the rest of us arrived, we would have to move outside. Fine. A few more people arrived, and the Cottage did not have enough chairs for us. Fair enough - we moved outside. After a few hours of food and drink, some of us left and the rest of us attempted to move back in for a drink (and some warmth). 7pm on a Sunday, there were plenty of table and chairs and we settled in. Then we got the most attention we had all day. The server told the 6 of us that since we have already eaten (and were unlikely to order food) we could not have the table. We basically got kicked out the second time.
Too bad, 'cause we otherwise like the place, but it will not get our business again.
Paul Rosenberg / March 13, 2011 at 10:08 pm
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Terrible service. Our group got moved several times. Over-salted mac and cheese and mushrooms. Ran out of propane on the patio.
Ceili Cottage replying to a comment from Paul Rosenberg / March 13, 2011 at 11:00 pm
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Hi Paul & JP,

Thanks for your feedback. As we tried to explain to you earlier, we try and accommodate everyone that comes into our establishment. We appreciate that you may have been frustrated with the cold weather (as we are!), and the general experience you had. Given our small space and the large party that you were with, there is a very limited number of spaces that we can seat you. With the setup we have for this week, there is only one table inside that is able to seat more than 6 people. Otherwise the tent is utilised. The propane issue was rectified within half an hour of the heat running out, and while the tent is obviously not as insulated as indoors, we try our very best to keep it as warm as possible. We wish it was 20C and sunny all week, but the weather is completely out of our control.

The dining room (small cottage) is exactly that. When it is full, a list of people wishing to dine is kept as we operate on a first come first served basis. We are trying our best to get everyone fed and watered, and as such, the cottage room is only for diners as long as there is a list. There was only one table open when you moved inside, and people who had been waiting for dinner were being sat in it at the same time. Unfortunately it was a very busy day, and trying to keep everyone happy is almost impossible. We appreciate that it was cold in the tent, but we try and heat it as best we can.

During dinner time when people wish to drink and socialise, we try and accommodate them at the bar, or this week in the tented area. We cannot force people to stand or drink in the bar or tent, and we understand that some people may wish to sit at a table to enjoy their drinks and conversation. With our small size, that is not always possible, but we can try and accommodate everyone based on their individual needs. We have always had a policy that no customer is more important than anyone else, irrespective of the number in their group or their spending power. Everyone that walks through our door is valued, but that does not mean that people can do whatever they wish without regard for anyone else in the bar. The bottom line is that we try and position people based on their needs. For example, this means that two people will not be sat at a table for eight, and during dinner, people wishing to have a drink are asked to join us at the bar so diners can use the dining room.

At no point was anyone "kicked out", they were simply advised that at that time they could not sit where they wanted. Kicked out indicates that people were asked to leave the premises, and at no time did that happen. Regarding the food issues, we can only improve if this is brought to our attention at the time of dining. There is nothing wrong with sending a dish back if you are not happy with it, but complaining after the fact makes it difficult to rectify. Also, it is perfectly acceptable to ask to speak to a manager/owner if you are not getting the desired level of service.

Once again, we're sorry that you had a negative experience, but we try to look after everyone as best we can, and ultimately this may leave some people feeling like they did not receive the service that they wanted. Our staff are trying their very best in dealing with the large crowds that come to our establishment this week. Regrettably sometimes it doesn't go exactly to plan.

Thanks again for the feedback, but please bear in mind that customer service is a two way street.

Kind regards,

The Ceili Cottage
Ross / January 7, 2014 at 02:32 pm
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Finally a Gastropub that actually lives up to the name. I have been to several of the "top" listed on Toronto blogs and this was a very pleasant surprise. We sat at the bar which is always a great choice for my wife and I. We prefer to interact with people than complain about them.
Everything was great. They make an effort with everything. The veal is on the bone which allows the marrow to be accessed. So good. The peet smoked salmon was delicious but a surprise served cold (cold is good just unexpected)

We will for sure return. Well done people. It is leslieville so expect critiques from perfect people who are likely never pleased.
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