What’s on the menu at Saint John’s Tavern’s new second-floor oyster house and raw bar
Including a take on Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay Biscuits and a $250 seafood tower
Name: Saint John’s Tavern’s Oyster House and Raw Bar
Contact: 117 John St., @saintjohnstavern, saintjohnstavern.com/oysterhouse
Neighbourhood: Entertainment District
Owners: Brian Donnelly
Chef: Chris Osborne
Accessibility: Not fully accessible
When Saint John’s Tavern, an English pub in the Entertainment District, opened in 2022, it quickly became a gathering spot for sports fans looking to enjoy a pint and take in a soccer game. Its lineup of draught beer and plates of bubble and squeak have made it a go-to for English and Irish expats. But, even though the kitchen was already busy pumping out Yorkshire puddings and chicken pot pies, head chef Chris Osborne was ready to welcome an extra challenge.
In November of 2023, Osborne and his team transformed the restaurant’s second floor into a cozy sit-down lounge more suitable for date night than game night. The new Oyster House and Raw Bar replicates some of the original tavern’s elements, like a wrap-around bar, wall-mounted televisions, an in-your-face liquor collection, and unmistakably English oak and brick accents. But the dimmed lighting, plush booths and two-person tables create a more intimate atmosphere, perfect for small corporate parties and romantic get-togethers.
“Adding a more intimate space to our restaurant was part of the conversation since the start,” said Osborne, who grew up helping his mother and stepfather run the now-closed Czech restaurant Heart of Europe, near Queen and Bathurst. “The Oyster House allows us to flex a few new signature dishes that are equal parts classy and approachable—it’s caviar but also cheddar biscuits.”
The menu is seafood-heavy, blending East Coast imports like PEI oysters with Mediterranean marvels including charred octopus. There are five hot items and five cold items, in servings that range from one-bite snacks (hello, buck-a-shuck) to grand arrangements that can satiate a work team (like the show-stopping seafood tower). All of it pairs well with a glass (or bottle) of wine.
Featuring happy-hour classics with a few big swings, the drinks menu is versatile enough to please any aficionados: there are a dozen beers on tap, more than 35 different bottles of wine, a house caesar and a roster of cocktails that all start at $16 (but can go up depending on your choice of base spirit).
A central bar is ringed by a mix of two-top tables and booths. That mix-and-match is no accident but an intentional layout meant to facilitate the many gears of a night out. “As much as we conceived this floor to create a more private setting, we didn’t want to lose that connective feeling of a tavern, which comes with people walking around and talking to one another,” says general manager Alia Monteforte.