Hammersmith's wants to have you over for brunch. Or more specifically, owners Colin Reed and Brittany Pegler want to. Open for about 10 weeks now, this new Gerrard East brunch spot is situated on the edge of East Chinatown. Named after a borough in London, England where the couple both lived and worked, Hammersmith's occupies a space that was for decades, a diner. This is evident by the low, tiled bar counter that runs the length of the dining area, paired with equally low barstools. I instantly wanted to perch on one of those stools and order a good old-fashioned milkshake...lucky for me homemade chocolate milk is on the menu. Close enough.
It's quiet when we arrive, but to be fair, it was a weekday and it was past the typical breakfast/brunch timeslot. Weekends see more action here when folks have time for a leisurely brunch or, as is the case for me on certain occasions, a second breakfast.
Hammersmith's design is simple, but spotless. Open, airy and bright, it still feels like a diner, minus the grease. Stainless steel counters combine with wooden tables, providing a nice industrial-organic blend. And talk about an open kitchen - Chef Reed (formerly of Czehoski) does everything, not behind a counter, but at his prep table in the middle of the restaurant. As we sit with our drinks, and wait for our order, Colin works away quietly and efficiently. It feels like being at a friend's house without feeling obliged to help out.
Now back to that chocolate milk ($3.00). This is made with no ordinary chocolate powder or syrup. A cold glass of milk is presented to me, accompanied by a dish of velvety chocolate. I proceed to empty the dish into my glass. The chocolate is thick and the result is a rich cocoa concoction that's just the right amount of sweet. Choco-licious.
We can't resist ordering the (also) homemade peach lemonade ($3.50). The lemonade provides some initial pucker, but the peach follows quickly on its heels to deliver a sweet finish. So quaffable they should serve pitchers of the stuff.
We order Hammersmith's version of a Caprese salad to start ($6). The grape tomatoes are drizzled nicely with olive oil and basil, and topped with creamy, mild burrata cheese instead of the typical bufala mozzarella. Being a big fan of burrata, I would have liked more in the salad, but this is wishing on my part - not complaining - as the price is right.
The mushroom omelette ($9) comes with an arugula salad and toast. More of a pocket than an omelette, it's stuffed with mushrooms (of course) and Swiss cheese. Filling.
My brunch cohort goes for the cured salmon served with arugula and roasted lemon ($13) which she says is the perfect marriage of flavours.
Desserts and scones are also available, made by Pegler herself, and displayed on glass pie plates (she has quite the collection of them) in true diner fashion.
The menu at Hammersmith's changes daily based on what Pegler and Reed have sourced from mostly local suppliers, or what the talented duo feel like creating, so I imagine going once isn't enough. As if anyone really needs an excuse to eat brunch more often.
Top photo by Jesse Milns. All others by Rebecca Fleming.