Gin Mill may have replaced a pub that stood in this spot for 25 years, the Yellow Griffin, though without changing much seeks to embrace a history all its own.
Back in the day (we’re talking like, 1860s) a gin mill referred to a saloon or tavern, especially one with a bad reputation. The place is no dive, but prohibition-era-inspired cocktails and a tighter menu replacing the Griffin’s multitude of burgers connect the dots.
The place was fully renovated and repainted, but the basic seating arrangement and capacity hasn’t changed too much. There are plans in the works to revamp an upstairs space too and put a 12-seat patio out front, as well as implement a weekly fifty-litre keg program.
Grilled calamari ($14) is fairly thoroughly doused in a marinade of parsley, garlic, rosemary and thyme, which gives the two curled rings of squid a slightly more charred and more robust flavour. Cherry tomato, lemon, chilis and arugula provide a nice punchy background to break this up as well.
Fish tacos ($14) are a crushable app or small affordable dinner, big pieces of crispy beer battered haddock on a soft white tortilla that could have been a little more toasted. However, these bar food classics are topped with black bean adobo, pickled onion, cilantro sour cream, pico and slaw that all harmonize nicely.
Simply called “The Burger” ($18) on the menu, probably since there’s now just one replacing all the Griffin’s, it’s decent, nothing too out there but big and beefy topped with aged cheddar, garlic aioli and some candied bacon that, as always, makes it.
Halibut ($25) gets the same house marinade treatment and a pan sear. Served over a colourful and chunky mix of large pieces of earthy root veg, Israeli couscous and whole Kalamata olives, it’s perhaps undelicate for the price but wholesome.
Cocktails are $14 across the board, lots of gin and egg whites tying the list to the prohibition era.
A Corpse Reviver #2 is not the most refined presentation of this classic cocktail, but what matters how boozy it is thanks to Death’s Door Gin combined with lillet blanc and Cointreau, and the fragrance and hit of bitterness it gets from an absinthe wash.
A Bee’s Knees has the classic accents of honey, lemon and basil and is made with local Ontario Trafalgar Cold Infused Honey Gin.
In fact, true to its name you can expect to find a good range of nerdy, high-end gins here, such as The Botanist, Boodles, Junction 56 Distillery and Dixon’s Wicked.
New operators Brandon and Josh Rennie are now partners with Maria and Oliver Lutkiewicz, the mother and son who previously owned the Yellow Griffin.