What’s on the menu at Le Tambour Tavern, a new Parisian-inspired steakhouse in Hamilton
It’s from the chef-owner of Union, Côte de Boeuf and Hearts Grey County
Name: Le Tambour Tavern
Contact: 345 James St. N., Hamilton, 289-389-5255, letambourtavern.com, @letambourtavern
Neighbourhood: West Harbour, Hamilton
Chef-owner: Teo Paul (Union, Côte de Boeuf, Hearts Grey County)
Accessibility: Fully accessible
When Teo Paul, the chef-owner of Ossington’s Union and Côte de Boeuf, had a friend approach him about building a new restaurant in Hamilton, he wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the idea. He’d just caught his breath after a harrowing renovation on the dilapidated building that would house Hearts, now a beloved roadside tavern in Grey County, but he went to scout the potential spot just in case.
A short jaunt from the West Harbour GO Station in downtown Hamilton, the building had a storied history—it was a tavern and rooming house in the 19th century and, most recently, an iconic live-music venue called This Ain’t Hollywood. In other words, big shoes to fill. But, if Paul’s history of building restaurants is any indication, he has a knack for bringing the best out of a space without stripping away its soul. So, when Paul saw the sizable room’s high ceilings, original floor and black doors plastered with band stickers, he also saw what it could become. “You know when you just feel it?” he says. “The space just revealed itself.” (Fun fact: that’s also what he said about Hearts.)
Two years of renovations later, Paul dubbed the restaurant Le Tambour Tavern—a homage to one of his favourite Paris steakhouses—and finally opened its doors in August. Not content to parachute in every so often, he moved into the apartment upstairs and now cooks at Le Tambour four days a week. “I really like living here. It feels a bit like being on vacation,” he says. “Hamilton is pretty calm. People talk to one another, no one’s raging on the roads, and parking officers give you a chance to fill up the meter before slapping you with a ticket. It reminds me of Toronto in the ’90s.”
In many ways, Le Tambour is a culinary sister to Union, with elements from Paul’s other restaurants—rustic but expertly executed dishes with strong seasonality and clean, bold flavours. Unique to Le Tambour is an open-fire grill. There, Paul serves roast hen with fries and chalet sauce, grills whole fish glazed in brown butter, and saturates a hefty French T-bone steak with char and smoke. Steak, chicken and a rotating crudo are among the menu’s staples, but the details change based on what local suppliers bring in. (Speaking of which, legendary organic farmer Ted Thorpe not only supplies Le Tambour but sells produce outside the restaurant most nights, sometimes accompanied by a band.)
There’s a tight old-world wine list of which nearly everything is available by the glass, and a small selection of Hamilton brewery heavy-hitters like unfiltered Clifford Pinball Wizard APA and the zippy Lime Chuggy from Fairweather Brewing Co. Cocktails include a bevy of concoctions, some which incorporate house-made infusions, and even some delightful zero-proof options.
It’s a big, warm room with high ceilings, exposed brick and gorgeous woodwork by Paul’s long-time friends Daren Johnson and Josh Hall, who also worked on Hearts. A mural by local artist Barbara Klunder features cartoon animals playing the drums—a cheeky nod to the restaurant’s name—overlooking a sizable horseshoe-shaped bar that doubles as a beverage and seafood station. There’s a dining area with tall barrel tables and cozy banquettes and, on the far right, a butcher’s table overlooking an open-fire grill and a glass-encased meat locker. Like all Paul’s restaurants, it feels like a roadside tavern with minimal pomp but heart and character in spades.