Historic Dining at Hearth and Garden

We’ve given a lot of grief lately to restaurants serving rustic comfort food. But recently we came across a new restaurant where it would be wrong for them to be serving anything else.

Hearth & Garden is located within historic Campbell House Museum (160 Queen Street West), and serves up a weekday lunch menu of classic dishes that not only speak to regional sustainability but also the historical foodways of the area.

Created by event planner and caterer David Vallee (you might know him from the TV show Rich Bride, Poor Bride), Hearth & Garden was originally the catering arm of Campbell House where Vallee and his team would organize weddings, tastings and other events. Working with Executive Chef Margaret MacKay (whose resume includes a long stint with Jamie Kennedy), Vallee moved incrementally to expand the business to a restaurant within Campbell House. After a trial by fire situation where they served 40 guests each night during Winterlicious, they proceeded to a soft opening a few weeks ago, allowing the signage in front of the museum and some flyers to local businesses to be their main form of promotion.

Built in 1822, the restored Campbell House is an excellent example of Georgian architecture, and Vallee and his team have worked to ensure the offerings match the atmosphere by including historical dishes with a nod to the modern palate. “It’s by no means orthodox, but we’re trying to avoid fusion,” he jokes about the menu. “We want to serve food with links to our past in Ontario.”

He explains that Chef MacKay loves historical recipes and cookery, and that they try to keep the menu reasonably-priced (the entrees top out at under $20 – the day we were there the priciest item was $14) while working with suppliers to get the best deals on local, sustainable products. The menu changes daily, but Vallee stresses that it’s incremental, as they try to ensure they use all of a side of beef or lamb with as little waste as possible.

The day we visited, the menu included duck breast, short ribs, beef brisket and a Pacific cod gratin. The brisket is one of the mainstays of the menu, along with a chicken pot pie and some variation of a Nicoise salad. Appetizers were mostly in the form of soups and salads. Desserts were also classics and included a crème brûlée, an apple crumble and a bread pudding.

Vallee points out that the menu will change with the seasons and that he and MacKay are looking forward to incorporating the herbs and vegetables grown in the garden at Campbell House into their dishes. They’ve done so previously for their catering menus, and while the garden won’t supply everything they need for the restaurant, it’s important to them to include some ingredients grown on the premises.

Guests can dine in the gracefully appointed Robinette Dining room where large tables and free wi-fi can easily accommodate business lunches, and large groups can dine around the huge harvest table in the museum’s kitchen, complete with blazing fire and period cooking items on the nearby shelves. The only downside is that, because of catering commitments and evening events at Campbell House, Hearth & Garden doesn’t serve dinner, so anyone wanting to check it out has to drop by for lunch. That hasn’t kept them from being busy however, with the dining room filling up during lunch with business types and groups of lawyers from the nearby law courts.

The best part of this lovely hidden gem – the food is really great.

Hearth & Garden is open Monday to Friday from 11:30am to 2pm. Reservations can be made by calling 416-597-0542.

This post originally appeared on TasteTO.