Ever since I quit my four-year-long bartending gig this past summer, I’ve been anxious to try out a new restaurant as an unbiased customer; I promised myself I wouldn’t judge a bar by its tap selection, choice of gin, bourbon option or the font on the cocktail menu…Alas, I found myself doing just that last night, when my fiancé and I decided to drive to Westboro for dinner. I suppose I’ll never lose my eye for those details. Despite this, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was impressed. Every aspect of my visit to the Savoy Brasserie was charming.
On a quiet Tuesday evening, no reservation was required. We arrived shortly after 6:00pm to an open dining room with many small, round tables by the big front windows. To the left was the bar; a long, slightly outward curved bar with fifteen stools, and six sections of bottles on display; each resting against large mirrors. We were greeted by a lovely young woman named Julia, who would be our server for the evening. She seated us at a cozy booth table at the back of the room, perfectly placed between the dining section and the bar. As we made our way to the table, I admired the gorgeous, full length mirrors hanging on every wall. The wine menu and daily specials were written on them in a simple white font.
The Savoy Brasserie’s cuisine is French-inspired, with many seafood options and a great selection of oysters. It’s located in a beautiful corner building characterized by its natural lighting, high ceilings, cozy seating and gorgeous floor tiling.
Julia was humble and friendly as she told us about the beer selection and specials. After a glance at the menu, we knew exactly what we wanted to start with – one of my favourite dishes, beef tartare. I was raised by a Czech man, so my idea of a meal is meat and salt…maybe with some bread. The beef tartare was listed as an appetizer, but it was the same price as most of the entrees – this was a good sign to me, because this meant that the meat is of good quality and it is carefully prepared and stored. It takes an attentive chef to keep raw beef fresh, clean, and at the perfect temperature so that it won’t dry out or go bad. This was the first test.
As we waited for the tartare, we each ordered a Sawdust City draught, the Golden Beach pale ale. At only 4.5 per cent, this is considered to be a session ale, as you are encouraged to have more than one because it is light and quaffable. It was delicious, a bright, sunny yellow and full of citrusy hop notes. I even tasted a subtle pineapple sweetness. I’m not usually one for hop-heavy beers, but this was very good.
When our tartare arrived, we were happy to see that it came with both crostinis and kettle chips. The presentation was nice and simple with the quail egg carefully placed on top. Again, I was impressed. They nailed the tartare – it had just the right amount of salt, pepper, capers and onions. All of the flavours complimented the beef perfectly. It paired well with the beer, too. The dish didn’t last long.
When we were finished the dish and our drinks, Julia was quick to clear our table and top up our water. She kept a good eye on us all evening. My fiancé ordered another beer and I decided to order a cocktail. I was drawn to the Rose Garden: a shaken drink with Dillon’s rose gin, agave, grapefruit, fresh basil, lime and bitters. I ordered one, and tried my best to hold back my expectations, as I am quite a cocktail enthusiast, and incidental critic. Julia soon returned with our drinks, and the Rose Garden was incredible—even better than I had expected.
The presentation and colour of the drink was lovely. With a simple basil garnish, grapefruit bitterness and agave sweetness, complemented by sour lime and the herbaceous subtlety of the rose gin and basil, I was floored. I’d worried that all those flavours would overpower each other, but they didn’t; they worked well together to bring out all the best notes.
After we took some time to sip our drinks and digest our appetizer, we decided to order a few more snacks. We were nearly full, and didn’t want to spoil a whole entrée by eating only half. So, Carey ordered the poutine with bacon and a poached egg, and I ordered five pieces of sautéed jumbo shrimp.
My sautéed shrimp was the perfect snack—cooked perfectly in a nice garlic butter that wasn’t too heavy. Again, the flavours were spot on. The poutine was great, too. Smoky bacon, fresh cut fries, stringy St-Albert cheese curds, mushroom gravy, and a soft poached egg. I only managed to get a bite or two, but it was definitely the best poutine I’ve had in a while.
After that, we were sufficiently full. We ordered some coffee and gave Julia our thanks before heading home. I was in awe at how impressive the overall atmosphere, service, drinks and food were. It was truly one of the best restaurant experiences I’ve ever had. I am looking forward to visiting again soon, and I encourage you to as well.
Paulina is an aspiring writer with an interest in philosophy, cultural criticism, journalism, and creative non-fiction. She also enjoys music, film, photography, and astronomy. On a good day, you might find her eating pizza and enjoying an amber ale, or listening to very loud music while driving too fast. She is a true lover of life.