The Queen and Beaver takes up house near Yonge-Dundas Square
Jack Astor’s, Hard Rock Café, Milestones—the area around Yonge and Dundas Streets is hardly known for its authentic cuisine. And yet, it was here that Crush Wine Bar owner and English expat Jamieson Kerr chose to open his classic British gastropub. The new Elm Street spot combines the owner’s love of Canada and Britain (the pub’s name came from the two sides of a nickel) and shows a glimmer of hope for simulacra central.
“There’s nowhere in Toronto where I can really sit down and enjoy a pint,” says Kerr, who is hardly a stranger to the area, having attended Ryerson in the late ’80s. “The pubs all seem to be the same here, with pizza, curries, wings, a mix of everything.” Bored with it all, he hired chef Andrew Carter (Le Paradis, Herbs), who grew up in a small town outside Manchester, to create a traditional British menu replete with pub staples. Thick slices of black pudding are served with a poached egg and frisée tossed in a light mustard-shallot dressing ($15); an unabashedly fatty potted duck comes adorned with bread slices and wild cherries ($8); and, of course, there’s ale-battered haddock and chips ($17).
The Queen and Beaver opened earlier this week, and its bars are still being stocked, though Kerr plans to serve cask beer ($8), domestics and imports on draft ($7), and red and white wines. Unlike the upscale Crush, however, Kerr made sure he could bring his daughter here, so he added a children’s menu, as well, resulting in a mix of suits, school kids and scallywags.
Previously occupied by 35 Elm and Il Fornello, the old Victorian home was remade by designer Elisa Sauvé, who gave it a rustic and whimsical charm. Our recent visit was less like hitting a bar and more like spending an evening at Kerr’s house. Diners are greeted by a giant portrait of Queen Elizabeth (holding a beaver, natch), and the upstairs hall is decorated with Kerr’s school photos, in which everyone is wearing full rugby regalia. Football fans should be pleased by a framed Manchester United jersey signed by Ryan Giggs (Kerr brought it from his house) and the goal posts installed in the urinals.
Equal parts cheeky and charming, the Queen and Beaver will probably not strike a blow for cultural authenticity at Yonge and Dundas—but it is, if nothing else, a welcome respite in the city’s most commercial district.
The Queen and Beaver Public House, 35 Elm St. (at Yonge), 647-347-2712, queenandbeaverpub.ca.