A couple of weeks back, I got an email inviting Greg and I to a pop-up dinner called The Loving Plateful. This was the real deal, taking part in a wood shop at Dufferin and Dupont, and organized by First Drop Canada, a group run by Adam Pesce of Reunion Island Coffee, that works to improve the lives of coffee farmers and their families. The $100 donation for the dinner went to Greenest City and Food4Farmers.

What intrigued me about this particular dinner, though, was that the food would be prepared by Chef Ben Heaton (formerly of Globe), as a preview to his soon-to-open Dundas West restaurant The Grove. A sneak peek at what Heaton would be offering his customers come (hopefully) mid-December would be quite a coupe.

The long wooden table was made from planks that were destined to become part of someone’s renovated kitchen, and the decorations of autumn flowers and small straw bales was rustic and pretty.

The menu for the evening promised samples of Heaton’s Contemporary English cuisine.

The dinner was paired with beer instead of wine, with all of the selections for the evening kindly donated by the folks from Muskoka Brewery. And it came in a cool canoe.

The first course was a roast squash salad with red onions, seeds, duck fat vinaigrette and, well, you can’t go wrong with bacon.

Mackerel is a hot ingredient in the UK right now as sustainable fishery advocates lobby to encourage Britons to make it a replacement for the ubiquitous cod. It shows up here grilled and served with radish, watercress, a poached egg and bacon cream.

This dish is listed on the menu as whole roasted heritage suckling pig, but in the makeshift kitchen it was referred to as “pork in pork”. This little piggy was stuffed with a pork-based forcemeat before roasting and being served with applesauce, cabbage and roasted fingerling potatoes.

At the end of the evening, Chef Heaton appears to talk with guests and to model one of The Grove’s snazzy t-shirts.

By the Grove’s website and the dishware at dinner, I’m guessing that the mis-matched China is part of the theme for the restaurant. This pretty teacup is full of a lovely quince crumble with a dollop of clotted cream.

Okay, so if this is what Heaton and his team at The Grove are planning, I’m thinking it will go over well. I’ll be very interested to see how he differentiates his menu from the other rustic/comfort food places out there, and where he goes with the contemporary English menu.

Thanks to everyone involved for a lovely evening and great food. I’m very much looking forward to The Grove’s opening in December.