Niagara Street Café
169 Niagara Street
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $52
I’ve always heard good things about the Niagara Street Café. It’s original incarnation was run by a mother/daughter team who used free-range and organic ingredients. When it transferred hands in 2004, it continued to gain accolades, particularly at brunch.
Everything about the place seems ideal – nice cozy space that would be filled with sunshine if we weren’t in the middle of a run of grey days, great looking menu with interesting options. But there’s an undercurrent of something that wasn’t quite right, especially in terms of the menu. What looks good on paper doesn’t jibe so well when reality sets in.
We start with a pot of coffee and a couple of starters. Starters on a brunch menu? Niagara Street Café lists them as “On the table ASAP” and offers a Potato Rosti with applesauce and sour cream or Banana Bread ($3 each). The small bodum of coffee ($6) arrives and we remark that it’s pretty big. The two of us get about 2 and a half cups each over the course of the meal. Then we realize that anywhere else, a cup of coffee at $1.50 to $2 would likely come with free refills. Hmmm.
The rosti and banana bread arrive and each look lonely on their respective plates. Three bucks for one slice of not especially flavourful banana bread? As the hungry husband points out, at least the butter was soft. The rosti is greasy and slightly burnt on one end. Okay, but not three dollars worth of okay.
While we’re waiting for our mains, we watch plates of Eggs Benedict ($12) arrive at an adjacent table. These look like hearty portions served on fluffy biscuits and the plate is heaped with salad. Moments later my order of Wild Mushrooms on Toast ($12) appears in front of me and my first thought is, where’s the rest of it? One poached egg sits atop a slice of soon to be soggy French bread with a scattering of mushrooms and cubes of bacon. And again I need to ask – where is the rest? Sure, wild mushrooms don’t come cheap, so maybe two eggs is asking a bit much, but we all know how much those bags of mixed greens cost. And if the Benedict can garner two eggs and two slices of ham for the same price, what’s up with the chintzy serving? The least they could have done is not over-poached the egg. The dish was gorgeously flavourful otherwise, there just wasn’t very much of it.
Across the table, the hungry husband was quite pleased with his Chorizo and Root Vegetable Hash ($13). It wasn’t the prettiest dish I’ve ever seen, but it was at least hearty, and the chorizo was a spicy compliment to the egg and chipotle laced bravas sauce.
To make up for still being hungry, we ordered a side of Fingerling Potatoes ($3). Again, like everything we tried here, they were delicious, but way on the meagre side. Seriously – we got maybe a total of three or four fingerling potatoes on that plate.
The final assessment – the mains were definitely good, flavour-wise, and Chef Michael Caballo knows his way around the tasty pig. However, the portions on almost every dish that we had were too small for the prices charged. I have a real issue with paying $50 for brunch and still leaving hungry.