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Restaurants

The Queen and Beaver

Posted by Devon Scoble / Reviewed on August 9, 2009 / review policy

queen and beaver toronto pubThe Queen and Beaver makes me want to crack a dirty joke. It's the name, and be honest... you know what I'm talking about. Luckily, I was born to English parents, so a stiff upper lip comes easily over these crooked British teeth. I want to laugh my arse off, but as the reproduction poster on the pub's second floor reminds the dutiful, I will Keep Calm and Carry On.

The décor in the Queen and Beaver Public House (aka "pub") is certainly conducive to such an exercise: deep wood, plush carpets, ceramic-edged fireplaces, a sideboard filled with gilt china and reproduction portraits of Queens Elizabeth I and II invite diners to relax and stay awhile. A menu filled with heavy traditional dishes all but guarantees they will accept the invitation.

My mate and I settle into this plush environs determined to carry out a most indelicate gorging, and prepared to stuff ourselves with an excess of British delicacies. We order Scotched Egg, Soccer Pie, Cider and Fennel Steamed Mussels and Chips, Duck and Potato Pie, and Sticky Toffee Pudding.queen and beaver toronto

Since most of choices are from the bar menu, our meal arrives speedily, served without fuss on a delightful mismatch of gold-leaf china that could've come straight from my grandma's pantry. Scotched Egg, a boiled egg wrapped in minced chorizo, battered and deep fried, is an artery-clogging tribute to the British culinary ethic, and sets the tone for the rest of the meal: food that is comfortable, creative and hearty, but stays within carefully proscribed boundaries: rich--yes, healthy--no.queen and beaver public house toronto

queen and beaver pubNext we sample the mussels. Infused with delicate fennel flavour, they ride the perfect tension between soft and springy. They're a solid offering, but as my chum glibly states: mussels are mussels. Our favourite part of this dish is the house-made ketchup served aside the fries: a hint of curry adds imperialistic panache to the normally pedestrian sauce.

But the ketchup doesn't keep our attention long, as we are lured by the draw of the pretty pies. We immediately determine that this is where the Queen and Beaver earns its royal epithet. The Soccer Pie is chunks of fatty steak and rich gravy in buttery tartlet, a perfect blend of savoury meat and flaky crust. The Duck and Potato pie is similarly savoury, pairing layers of tender smoked duck with creamy scalloped potatoes in a slightly over-baked crust. It's served with a side of rocket and cornichon (British for arugula and gerkins). The sharp green sides are our meal's only nod to vegetation, and we welcome the contrast.20090809_qb05ED.jpg

Despite the richness of our dishes, the serving sizes are small, and we find ourselves with unexpected belly room. We order a Sticky Toffee Pudding to fill the gap. Softy, sticky, sweet and served with a rapidly melting dollop of homemade vanilla ice-cream, this tiny pudding piques our tastebuds, but doesn't quite fill the extra stomach space.20090810-queenbeaver-sticky.jpg

The Queen and Beaver offers solid traditional British treats and a beautiful dining space, but prices reflect the décor and real estate value of the location as much as the quality of ingredients and flavour of the food. Diners seeking a romantic meat-and-potatoes date, or politicians looking for a luxurious, but unpretentious meeting place (we run into Mayor Miller and an entourage of suits on the way out) would be well served by this pub, but bargain hunters will be best off sticking to the extensive beer menu, and ordering a specialty cask beer ($7) instead.20090810-queenbeaver-elizab.jpg

Scotched Egg: $4
Cider and Fennel Steamed Mussels and Chips: $12
Soccer Pie: $11
Duck and Potato Pie: $15
Sticky Toffee Pudding: $820090810-queenbeaver-exteri.jpg

Discussion

17 Comments

Heather Li / August 9, 2009 at 08:21 pm
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You gotta go back for the maple-glazed pork belly BLT! Best of life.
DS / August 9, 2009 at 08:37 pm
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I'm partial to a quadruple mint julep session at the Queen and Beav, but not everyone can afford that.

Props to BlogTO for foraging into Yonge and Dundas for once.
sam / August 9, 2009 at 08:58 pm
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no!!!!!
I can't believe you reviewed this place for everyone- now you're going to truin my quiet little spot! Q&B is the BEST.
william / August 10, 2009 at 07:16 am
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What'd they have on tap?
andi / August 10, 2009 at 09:31 am
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The Queen and Beaver is an oasis amongst the kitsch that permeates Y&D. Hopefully your so-so review will scare people off, so that there will still be room on the lovely patio for me and my mates.
tracy / August 10, 2009 at 11:43 am
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oh that's so funny! I'm a Torontonian who's lived in London England since 1991 - and i STILL can't find a decent Mint Julep in this town! Scotch eggs and Steak'n Guinness pies, sure, treacle pud, spotted dick, mushy peas and skate, fine - heck, i can even get a great cheeseburger these days, or a brilliant Americano (granted, from an Italian coffee chain!)... but a good old-fashioned American cocktail, made correctly, is either impossible to find - or costs the equivalent of a small country's budget. So i'm really looking forward to coming to Toronto in 3 weeks' time, and having a proper Mint Julep in a British pub! At last!
pete / September 2, 2009 at 02:09 pm
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Devon, you do a good job summing up the place: smallish serving sizes & over-inflated prices on a lot of the dishes. I paid $15 for a duck & potato pie, which was pretty much 1/2 the size of any other pie you'd get at your regular British pub... it was good, but not that good!

The space itself is really nice and the decor inside is very cool (love the Giggs jersey)... i'd be more inclined to have some of that cask ale next time around.
Colin / September 14, 2009 at 09:41 am
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Atrocious. Like an episode of Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. I went to the Q&B over the weekend with two guests and both the service and food was terrible. First the food. A salad with pear, walnut and Stilton was small and watery. Three or four unchopped large lettuce leaves with tiny pieces of Stilton and a few chopped walnuts, then covered in a watery dressing. It was either $12 or $14--can't remember. Then I paid $14 for a "Bacon Butty." Terrible. It was served on a stale sandwich bun and the sandwich had nothing else than the bacon and a smear of some kind of tomato sauce. $14. Neither the fish and chips or the lamb curry were anything to write home about either.

Now for the service. Seriously understaffed. They had two people on the floor. A bartender/server who spent time looking for spots on the wineglasses and a curiously unsmiling waitress with zero charm. Both had a habit that I hate (as a former server myself): going to one table and then back to the kitchen or bar, instead of visiting tables in succession and remembering orders and then retreating. So inefficient.

Lest you think this is a hatchet job, there were two older couples in our area. Behind us, a man sent back his dinner and complained about the service. Off to the side, an elderly man with a cane actually had to get up from his site and hobble over to the bar to request a dessert order because the other server had disappeared.

All of this may have had something to do with a large dinner party in the next room of about 10 people--but don't you hate it when restaurants spend all their time on the big tables and ignore the rest of their customers?

As a fan of good pubs and puddings, I was put out. For my guests I was embarrassed. My prediction? The Q&B won't last more than a year. Beware.



sarah / August 16, 2010 at 10:06 pm
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Extremely slow and unattentive service every time.
Londonistanonian / January 17, 2011 at 11:45 am
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Slow and unattentive? Well you did want the proper English experience.
Maggie / November 20, 2011 at 08:05 pm
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Shocked at the terrible experiences others say they've had here. We've had nothing but pleasant evenings at the Q&B, with excellent service and fantastic food. Perhaps the place has improved significantly in the last two years - I don't even recognize my favourite pub in the comments previously posted.
Asia / October 9, 2012 at 05:01 pm
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I have been here a number of times and always enjoy it. I have eaten both in the dinning room and the upsatirs bar area. I prefer the upstairs as it is a more laid back atmosphere but still offers the same menu. The food is delicious and the staff is very friendly.
Chris / March 16, 2013 at 04:26 pm
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NIce place, but I wouldn't put it in the top 10. The bloke at the bar trate us really well, the waitress not as much. She was trying to get rid of us with such a bad attitude. Won't come back.
Jennifer / April 24, 2013 at 11:33 am
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I really wanted to like this place. I tried. However, unless these guys are aiming to duplicate bad stereotypes about bland poorly cooked British food they've missed the mark. Fish and chips is bland and batter is soggy. What decent pub can't manage to fry fish? I ordered a medium well burger (when preggo and taking extra precautions with meat) and they served it med-rare at best anyway with a lot of attitude about how to properly cook a burger. Sod off, as the Brits might say.
Ella Rovardi / September 9, 2014 at 10:08 pm
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Scotched egg? Are you kidding me? If British, it's 'Scotch'. Just the whisky, just the egg...not the people. I am Scottish.
Queen Beaver / November 6, 2014 at 09:41 am
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Great post. I personally think this is one of the best and most under-rated gastropubs in the city.

We have a lot of great restaurants in Toronto that are not necessarily "new" or "hot" that tend to fall off the radar - but are definitely worth a repeat visit. I think this is one of them for sure.

More thoughts: http://citybyheart.com/2014/10/01/richmond-station-the-best-burger-ive-ever-had/

xo

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