392 Roncesvalles Avenue
brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $40
How long is long enough?
We’re known for hassling other restaurant critics about not giving new restaurants enough time to find their groove before slipping in for a review. Two or three weeks is usually considered an appropriate amount of time, and we feel we’re adhering to that standard of courtesy when we show up more than two weeks after opening day at Blue Plate, the new restaurant on Roncesvalles where Boho used to be. But while the food meets our expectations, the place very much feels like the staff on the floor and in the kitchen are barely keeping it together.
The two owners – Melissa Fox-Revett in the front of house and Julia Young at the stoves – aren’t unfamiliar with the space. Both were involved with Boho before it was sold to Fergus Munster a couple of years ago. The room got a gorgeous reno when the pair took it over earlier this year, and it’s once again a long, airy room with an open kitchen, and wow, what a floor.
But nice decor doesn’t make up for the constant mistakes.
The menu is an average-sized card of 12 items that run the gamut of brunch dishes, but they’re all labour intensive. From French toast and pancakes ($10 each) to eggs Benny or Florentine ($12 each), there are no easy outs. No simple bagel and cream cheese. No bowl of fruit and granola. Young’s team of 3 in the kitchen never stops – they can’t – and even from a table near the back of the room, it’s obvious that they’re constantly in the weeds.
Fortunately, they manage to turn out some beautiful food despite the chaos. Duck confit hash with fried egg and mixed baby greens ($12) is awesome, the bits of potato and duck cooked in luscious duck fat.
The husband orders The Blue Plate Sandwich: “bacon, sausage, fried egg, tomato, lettuce, aged gouda and red pepper jelly on a baguette with fries or mixed baby greens” ($14). It arrives bearing grilled chicken, which appears to be meant for the Club sandwich ($12). Back it goes, returning with the listed bacon and sausage, but also a slice of peameal bacon. The egg is MIA. Back and forth it goes again. At this point we figure the server is on to us as he jokes about us having memorized the menu. And despite the fact that the cheese and the red pepper jelly don’t appear at all, the husband eats the thing anyway because it’s just comedic at this point. The sandwich itself is big and good and meaty – perhaps too meaty, even before the unlisted peameal – and flavourful despite being somewhat unbalanced by the lack of garnishes.
And it’s not just our table having issues with orders being incorrect. From our vantage point we can see servers wandering off with the wrong dishes and being called back, and at one point a plate of eggs Benedict arrives at the table behind us to a greeting of “Uh, excuse me, isn’t this supposed to have hollandaise sauce on it?”
Things get even more confusing with the addition of dessert. Like the main menu, the dessert menu is fairly extensive (8 items), especially for brunch. And especially when the kitchen is slammed as the place fills up. A run on Eton Mess (all desserts $6) sees Fox-Revett abandon her place on the floor to put together the dessert of cream, lemon curd, berries and meringue, and there’s a minor “oh shit” moment when it appears as if there’s no meringue left to complete the 3 separate orders.
She manages to get them made, though, and once ours arrives it proves to be a really nice version – sweet, light, messy and perfect for sharing.
I want to say wonderful, glowing things about Blue Plate. I love the space, the bottles of water spiked with rosemary sprigs that appear with the menus, and the friendly service. I was utterly happy with the food we got even if it wasn’t exactly as ordered.
But some diners might not be as enamoured of the minor chaos that happens in the very open kitchen and on the floor. Both of the proprietors have run a restaurant in this space before; two weeks should be enough time for them to get the kinks worked out. My only conclusion is that Young’s brunch menu is just too ambitious for 3 people to carry out, especially when the place is busy. They may yet find their flow, or may find it necessary to tweak things and switch in a few less labour-intensive dishes. In the meantime, while I still encourage readers to check the place out, I’d advise that you take a good look at your meal when it arrives to ensure that you got what you actually ordered.