Over the last few years, formerly low-rent areas like Ossington,Parkdale and Dundas West have become culinary destinations, with a spate of new restaurants serving up affordable and inventive cuisine in casual dining rooms. The latest in this line is The Grove, a 50-seat Dundas West restaurant from chef Ben Heaton(One, Colborne Lane, Globe Bistro), Richard Reyes (One) and Fritz Wahl(Senses) that’s aimed at introducing Toronto diners to modern English cuisine.
The trio, who met while working at Far Niente, worked with David Rad(S333 DesignandConstruction) to turn what was once a dentist’s office into a contemporary space that oozes faux-old warmth. Here, worn-in woods and raw exposed bricks are mixed with rough, textured wallpaper and ripped drywall (a large mirror and vintage wallpaper will eventually be added to the long room’s western wall). Antique pieces—a beer fridge from the ’50s, a whitewashed kitchen cupboard, mismatched chairs and sundry knick-knacks Reyes picked up off of Craigslist—are peppered throughout. Furniture makers Brothers and Sons created the harvest table in the glassed-in front corner of the restaurant (made out of old Douglas fir beams from the room’s ceiling), along with the pine tables and banquettes and the eight-seat bar top (repurposed squash court flooring). While the owners were readying the restaurant, they also participated in a series of charity pop-up dinners with First Drop Canada,hosted in various locales with makeshift kitchens, with industry friends in tow (six more events are upcoming).
Heaton’s custom-built kitchen at the room’s rear is a new addition. Here, Heaton makes British cuisine to reflect his heritage. Stereotypically stodgy foods are reinvented: a potato and leek soup, for example, is presented as a stack of roasted mini-potatoes with charred leeks and soy emulsion, with cheddar espuma added to the tower just before service ($10). Heaton’s take on surf and turf pairs beef two ways—skirt steak and short ribs—with oysters, both fried and in an emulsion, served with samphire (sea asparagus) and thin slices of radish ($24). Uncommon ingredients (to Toronto menus at least) like buckthorn, clotted cream, snails and stinging nettles abound, paired with products from suppliers like Hooked, 100km Foods and Perth Pork Products. The menu will rotate according to the availability of ingredients, and a $65 five-course tasting menu is also available. The kitchen is currently open to 11 p.m., but a late-night menu serving classic English grub like scotch eggs and pork crackling is on the way as well. To go with that, the restaurant offers wines chosen by Wahl, a tight, English-style cocktail list and a mix of local beers on tap—including, of course, some cask ales.