Just Opened: Ceili Cottage

Just Opened: Ceili Cottage

Irish times: Patrons live it up at Leslieville's Ceili Cottage (Photos by Signe Langford)

“We did this totally back-asswards,” says Patrick McMurray of Ceili Cottage, the Irish pub he opened in Leslieville, and the series of snafus that kept its doors closed until the end of June.

The last snag was the threat of an LCBO strike, which was scheduled to begin the same day McMurray planned to serve his first drinks. He sent his wife and a friend to the liquor store to fill four carts before he officially received his licensee number. As he tells it, the carts of booze were just approaching the cash at the same moment as his license was confirmed. The kegs of beer had yet to be delivered, but Leslievillians—having developed quite a thirst after months of watching the glacial progress on their new local—were pounding on the cottage’s red door, demanding refreshments. McMurray opened without kegs, serving cans of Guinness and bottles of Harp from a nearby Beer Store.

Kevin Brauch puts the final touches on a cocktail

That was three weeks ago. Now the place is draining keg after keg—there are twelve different suds on tap—for the customers crowded onto the salvaged church pews. Built in 1884, Ceili’s building has been stripped down to its bones, exposing marred plaster, bricks, old paint and wood. The bar top is made from Kilkenny stone left over from the Ireland Park project at the Bathurst Quay.

McMurray’s childhood buddy and star of The Thirsty Traveler, Kevin Brauch, has devised signature cocktails and infusions for the Cottage, including the Irishman in New York (Bushmills Irish Whisky infused with 25 vanilla beans, $7), the Long Tall Strawberry Blonde (vodka made pink with strawberries and rhubarb, $13) and the Stagshead (a goes-down-too-easy concoction of rum, Jagermeister and orange juice, $7). Chef Kyle Deming (also chef at Starfish, another McMurray venture) sends out plates of not-so-classic pub fare. The menu favours seafood, with such dishes as grilled oysters topped with Thunder Oak cheese and panko ($17), and peat-smoked organic Scottish salmon ($14). Breads and scones are baked on site, and Deming’s wife makes the pickled beet and cabbage from an old Yorkshire recipe. The food is a success with locals, and the place is hopping most nights of the week. Locals, like McMurray himself, can now raise a glass to the long-awaited pub that was too long in the making.

Ceili Cottage, 1301 Queen Street East, 416-406-1301, ceilicottage.com.