Fanny Chadwick's, located at the corner of Howland and Dupont, is a short skip and a hop from the Dupont subway. The name, I learned, is a homage to the 19th century socialite, playwright and musician Fanny Chadwick who grew up on Howland Avenue. Keeping with the local spirit, the restaurant prides itself on its use of locally sourced produce and meats (hormone and antibiotic free) and even touts in-house made condiments.
Word about Fanny's has spread quickly, and we found a lineup spilling the door at 10.30 am. Fortunately, we only had to wait about 15 minutes in the cold to be seated, thanks in part to a group of six ahead of us who decided to take off.
We were seated in a nook beside the door holding five tables and filled with natural morning light. Our wood table was adorned with a small potted plant and a jar of granulated brown sugar. The nook was charming, but I couldn't help but feel like we were being tucked away in a corner and hidden from the real experience of eating at Fanny's happening in the main part of the restaurant behind us. The blasts of cold air from the door didn't help.
Fanny's has fresh, clean, crisp white walls featuring vintage black and white photographs of the Annex. The main restaurant boasts an impressive large, stainless-steel 1950s diner counter with colourful booths surrounding it. The mix of diner and up(per)-scale gourmet is an interesting pairing that ultimately feels comfortable.
After waiting without water or menus for about 10 minutes, an impatient waitress came by and asked if we would like a coffee or tea. Since I knew they offered some interesting cafe specialties (like hot-chocolate with homemade marshmallow) we asked to see a menu before deciding on beverages. The waitress seemed annoyed by our request but a couple minutes later we finally got to see the menu.
It's clear much attention has gone into the visual elements of the restaurant, which made being handed two sheets of cheap, white paper as menus a surprise. I sincerely hope the "local" ink-jet printer menus are replaced soon with something a little more environmentally friendly and professional to fit the rest of the restaurant.
Another waitress came by to take our orders and was even more frantic and unfriendly then the last. My friend decided to try the hot chocolate ($3.50) while I chose a latte ($3.50) and was relieved to hear they offered soy since the menu was decidedly not vegan friendly. Unfortunately, our drinks ended up being "forgotten" and were brought out half way through the meal, which was a let down.
I ordered the "Build your own Benny" on a homemade English muffin ($9) with mushrooms and wilted greens ($2 each). My first reaction to seeing my food was disappointment. I had been eager to see how the potatoes would be done (an important distinguishing feature of any breakfast/brunch establishment) and was sad to see the locally sourced potatoes had faced the cruel fate of being put through the deep fryer.
The house ketchup did nothing to remedy the situation. As I squeezed it out of the cheap, red plastic bottle, it was thick and dark like tomato paste. Turns out it tasted just like tomato paste except more bland. My benny was fine but nothing memorable. The hollandaise sauce was creamy, as it should be, but lacked any memorable flavour and could have used a sprinkling of herbs or a pinch of salt for that matter. The wilted greens were more soggy than wilted and when I asked the waitress about my food I got two, one word answers: "yes" the ketchup is house made; the mushrooms are a "mix".
My friend decided to go for a classic bacon, eggs and toast combo ($12). The scrambled eggs were plentiful and simple in virtuous way. The bacon was lightly charred and crispy. The four thick slices of marbled rye toast outshone both of the latter with a decadent, thick mixed-berry spread to top. It was simple and fresh but overall a little lackluster.
Our long awaited drinks were served in long, glass cups. The hot chocolate was made extra sweet in a delightful way by the homemade marshmallow melted on top. My soy latte was creamy and smooth and I stirred in a little of the brown sugar from the jar on the table.
When the bill came I noticed I had been overcharged, and when I apologetically pointed it out to our waitress (already in a visible huff over us asking to pay separately), she was significantly further annoyed. I didn't realize this was a possible reaction. She ended up explaining to us later that they were missing a waiter that day who broke his arm. This was the most conversation we got with our waitress the entire sitting.
Overall, the service was unpleasant. The stress in the air was palpable and off-putting, but they were, of course, one waiter short — I will emphasize that again to be fair.
I appreciated that the local fresh produce and meats took priority in the dishes and weren't drowned out by oil and salt (save for deep-fried potatoes), but they were in need of an extra punch to make them a little more memorable.
Fanny's locally sourced ingredients, seasonal menu and unique elegant-dinner feel make in an interesting new addition to the Annex. I'm still intrigued by the grilled cheese and house cured gravlax on the lunch menu but not intrigued enough to head back anytime soon.
Watch out vegetarians — no mains offered for you at dinner. Vegans — steer clear all together.
Writing and photos by Kaela Greenstien