What’s on the menu at Man of Kent, a British pub on Ossington taking its food to the next level
Name: Man of Kent
Contact: 202 Ossington Ave., @manofkentpub
Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods
Owner: Lawrence Bill
Chef: Adam Squires
Accessibility: There’s a step at each entrance, but they can bring out a ramp to help people get inside
Disclaimer: this is a British story, so of course it involves soccer (er, football). In 2021, Man of Kent was showing the Euro Cup. England made it it all the way to the finals only to lose out in typical, heart-breaking English fashion, falling to Italy in a shootout.
At the time, Adam Squires, purveyor of popular meat pies, was working across the street at La Cantina. A native of Bournemouth, Squires couldn’t resist sneaking over to watch games with his British compatriots. That’s when he met Lawrence Bill.
The two expats hit it off immediately. They’re both from the south of England. Both were involved in the restaurant industry. And both root for Newcastle United. In fact, they had so much in common that Bill thought something was up. “I had to ask to make sure he wasn’t an inspector,” he says. “I thought the government sent someone over for me.”
But it was all just a happy coincidence that led to a collaboration. This past St. Patrick’s Day, Squires made his pies in the Man of Kent kitchen and sold them to the bar’s customers. It was a smashing success. “We sold out in two or three hours,” says Bill. “It went so well, we were like, ‘All right, let’s do this every weekend.'”
Every Saturday, when English soccer was on the telly, they did a pop-up. “We just kept selling out,” says Bill. By May, Squires’s pies were popping up five days a week, so the two designed a full menu and negotiated a permanent partnership. Bill offered Squires a yearly wage and a slice of the business.
Moving forward, Bill and Squires want to take their food to the next level, like, mass-producing frozen pies in an industrial kitchen and selling them at major grocery chains. Bill expects that to happen as early as October.
But it doesn’t stop there. Other options include:
- A fish finger sandwich. “It’s kind of like the Filet-O-Fish from McDonald’s,” says Bill. “We let people decide if they want to add American cheese.” $12.
- A ploughman’s platter of smoked ham, crudités, cheddar, stilton, pickles, chutney and a baguette to share. $18.
- Breaded homemade pickles. $7.
- A chip butty: hand-cut chips and mushy peas on a buttered brioche bun. $8.
- Pea fritters served with a cucumber-mint dip. $8.
There’s beer, of course, including Guinness. “There are only a few places in the city that know how to properly pour a Guinness,” says Bill. “We use a separate gas line, with more nitrogen, which gives it the right flavour and texture.” But there are local options too, like Left Field Brewery’s Greenwood IPA. “I wanted to have more local brewers on tap, especially after the pandemic,” says Bill. “We’ve all been through the same thing.” The cocktail card includes a paper plane (with a very impressive bird-shaped lemon peel garnish), a gin-and-prosecco-based highball called the Purple Empress (“It’s like an Aperol spritz with a little extra zip,” says Bill), and the Crown Float, which layers Guinness on top of prosecco.
The bar is named after Bill, who’s from a town called Hythe, just southeast of Kent. He first came to Toronto in 2008 to play cricket. (He was a wicket keeper—a position that sounds like it was pulled straight from the pages of Harry Potter but is similar to a baseball back catcher.) After retiring from cricket, Bill had a stake in a barbershop, which is now a tattoo shop.
Then, in 2013, he heard about a cheap space for lease on Ossington, so he went into the bar game. Bill grew up in the gritty British bar scene and wanted Man of Kent to feel like a representation of home. He didn’t think Man of Kent should be a super fancy, overdone royal pub, with pictures of kings and queens. But he didn’t want it to feel like a run-down estate pub either. So he struck a tasteful middle ground: wooden floors, black painted walls, antique-y chandeliers, a Banksy print and a painting of a ship weathering a storm.
“It’s become a little hub for people in the community, creatives and people working in restaurants, to come and have a couple of drinks,” says Bill. “We’ve definitely got the drinks and partying vibe. But it’s nice to have a full-time food menu now, a wholesome element that glues it all together.”