The Belsize Public House is a pub that does elevated bar classics like house-made burgers and sausages. It's owned by John Oakes of Harbord House and took over from The Longest Yard that previously stood in this location for thirty years.
The place is big enough to earn its public house name with ample bar, table and patio seating, and a TV behind the bar. It's inspired by the vibe of owner Oakes' rental cottage in Haliburton, from the laid-back atmosphere and friendly staff to wines with names like "Trail Mix," a blended red from Napa Valley ($9.75/glass, $43/bottle).
The interior is full of touches that bring the cottage to the city, like photographs by Oakes himself of nature scenes on the walls. He also brought in pieces of driftwood that he preserved and varnished himself, placed at the bar and in various nooks around the restaurant.
The taps are always changing, and they're not afraid to play around within their model at the Belsize. The key factor is, the farthest beer they pour is a St-Ambroise from Montreal. Three taps typically rotate, with rarities like the Muskoka Night Moves Black Cream Ale, and a cask conditioned ale rotates too.
When we come in Oakes pours us a Durham's "L.A." Pale Ale from the cask ($7.05 for 20 ounces). It's a super light beer good for lunchtime drinking, and at only 3.8% it's golden, refreshing, and hoppy.
Their food is nothing to sneeze at, headed up by chef Jimmy Fu, formerly of The Gabardine and others. I like how all their mains come with some kind of salad, which is in itself an elevation. The house-made lamb sausage ($18) comes on a bed of warm lentils, and is served with nicely crunchy brussel sprouts and roasted red peppers marinated in red wine vinegar, onions, garlic, and olive oil.
If you want something lighter but still sophisticated and nourishing, try the smoked trout nicoise ($19). A generous filet of smoked trout from Purvis Fisheries on Manatoulin Island rests atop green beans, boiled potato wedges, halved cherry tomatoes, black olives and hard-boiled egg wedges dressed with a tarragon vinaigrette and served with a lemon wedge.
The grilled calamari ($12) lands between a snack and a light meal, whole squid scored into rings draped with a caper tomato salsa and resting on a bed of greens with an olive oil, lemon juice, onion and parsley dressing.
The food is meant to be recognizable yet exceed your expectations...kind of like everything else at the Belsize.
Photos by Hector Vasquez