507 Parliament Street
brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $30
Neighbourhood street festivals are generally not a good time to visit a restaurant for a review. Like other dining events, such as the seasonal ‘Licious series, the kitchen often isn’t at its best, forced to serve even more covers than usual as the hordes of people demand to be fed. So when we walked past Peartree on Parliament Street during last weekend’s Cabbagetown Festival and saw the make-shift patio that extended into the curb lane of the street, we were a bit concerned. Inside, the place was only about a third full, however, and we figured we’d give it a go.
The brunch menu we were offered was an abridged version of what is regularly served, but still included a variety of choices from variations on eggs benedict ($8.99 – $11.99) to classics like French toast ($8.99) and omelettes or quiche ($8.99 each). Wisely including a selection of burgers and sandwiches, as well as a pasta and a fish dish, Peartree covered all the bases and didn’t exclude the folks more in the mood for lunch.
We placed our order and were delighted to receive a basket of raspberry coffee cake squares with our coffee. Light and fluffy, and studded with fresh berries, an offering like this is always a sweet gesture.
Taking note of the room while we waited for our food, we found the space homey and comfortable, if a bit dated. Exposed brick and brocade bench seats combined with sponge-painted walls and floral wallpaper gave the space an early 90s faux Victorian feel that could use a bit of updating. New laminate flooring was shiny and fresh but poorly laid, with wide gaps that were distracting and potentially dangerous for anyone wearing heels. A series of artwork featuring teddy bears made the space feel a bit too homey, tending more to twee and fussy.
Not twee was the creole benedict ($10.99) which arrived doused with a house-made creole sauce full of peppers, onion and even okra. Spicy and intense, if relying a bit too heavily on the chipotle peppers, this covered a poached egg cooked to a runny texture, peameal bacon and English muffin. Accompanying homefries were fairly standard, although the inclusion of fried onions gave them zing.
More in the mood for lunch than eggs or sweet pancakes, I opted for the vegetable burger ($9.99), curious to see whether the house-made patty would more closely resemble the faux meat variety or the bean and veg studded type. It was actually neither, with not much flavour and a sharp outer edge, which seemed strange given that Peartree brags on their website about how all items, right down to salad dressing and bread, are made in-house. The burger was dry, hard on the edges and tasteless. The standard toppings of onion, cheese, lettuce et al were generous, but ketchup was the only condiment brought to the table, with no mustard or relish offered. The massive portion of fries that came with the dish filled my need for comfort food and were crisp and tasty, but mostly made me long for the fries from beerbistro or Jamie Kennedy’s.
We considered dessert – a display of cakes that didn’t look especially house-made called to us – but decided against finishing with something sweet. The burger had actually been quite filling, despite the fact that I only ate half of it.
I’d always heard good things about Peartree over the years, so overall, this visit was a bit disappointing. Nice touches such as the basket of coffee cake were overshadowed by the discomfiting décor and mediocre food. Not a complete strike out, and I’d give it another chance if I was in the area, just because it’s somewhat unfair to judge a place on what it puts out during special events. But on the other hand, there’s only so much leeway that can be given for special circumstances – the food should be good regardless of how many extra patrons are sitting in the road out front.