Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Aberdeen Tavern: Hamilton, Ontario

The dining room
Whenever a new restaurant opens up in Hamilton, I get absolutely giddy. The promise of new food and drink adventures as well as the possibility of a new local watering hole is all it takes to make this girl really happy! When I noticed that the former 7 Windows was closed and the storefront was covered in brown paper, I immediately had a good feeling about what was to come. The neighbourhood has truly been missing out on a local gastropub and the Aberdeen Tavern is doing a very good job so far of filling that space.

Situated on the corner of Aberdeen and Dundurn is the newly launched Aberdeen Tavern. Unlike its predecessor, which was a somewhat stuffy, fine dining locale, the Aberdeen Tavern blends a fine dining feel with a more casual, yet refined, menu and atmosphere. The new restaurant is being co-managed by Andrea Cassis and Nathaniel Beattie, two very experienced leaders in the restaurant industry. With beautiful old wood booths, a long dining hall with high ceilings and a classic bar with a view of the kitchen, they clearly put a lot of time and attention into the restaurant. I instantly liked the vibe and was impressed by the space and staff.

Oxtail tacos
Duck confit spring rolls
We started off at the bar for some cocktails and drinks. We were dining with some of my fellow foodie friends, who were equally looking forward to the meal. They have 4 beers on tap (which, admittedly, I was a bit disappointed about since I was hoping to see a slew of craft taps on hand!), a good wine list as well as some unique cocktails. I opted for a Manhattan, a classic cocktail with bourbon and bitters, which they served with a sour cherry on the rocks. After that I decided to venture into one of their specialty cocktails and ordered The Derby. The Derby is made with bourbon, peach liqueur, lemonade, earl grey tea and fresh mint. It was tart and very refreshing – a perfect way to start the meal.

Brussel sprouts
The menu itself is quite eclectic with a lot of different options – starters, plates to share, salads, pastas and mains. We picked out a few different appetizers to start, including the oxtail tacos, the charcuterie platter, the spring rolls and the beef carpaccio. The tacos were delicious – flavourful and tender meat with lime and cabbage. The spring rolls were the second stand out app since they were homemade and filled with duck confit! Savoury, flaky and delicious. The charcuterie platter was nice however the carpaccio was quite salty. I enjoy all sorts of carpaccio and tartares and while I enjoyed the fresh quail egg on top, the overwhelming flavor was salt which overtook everything else.

Halibut fillet
For our mains we ordered the 24-hour braised short ribs with grits (x2!), the halibut with risotto and the seafood linguini. The short ribs were fork tender and basically melted in your mouth. But the grits! Ohh… the grits. They totally blew us away. Creamy in texture like mashed potatoes with a buttery, rich flavour. Delish! The halibut was pan fried in brown butter and was served on top of risotto. The fish was flaky with a nice crust and great flavor. I ordered the linguini because 1 – I had heard a lot about it and 2 – I like to know how a place makes an otherwise common restaurant dish standout. This linguini included clams, mussels, shrimp (with the tails already removed, which is always the way to 
go in my book) and scallops.  It was light, with fresh chives and tomatoes, which really let the flavor of the seafood shine. It wasn’t overly creamy; rather they used the elements of the dish as well as (what I’m pretty sure were) finely diced artichokes to create the right texture and subtle flavors. We also shared 2 plates of their brussel sprouts as an additional side. I was pretty surprised to find a table of people who all liked the infamous sprout and the Tavern did them well. Softly steamed, but still green with the right amount of bite and topped with cheese gratin.  Needless to say, we all cleaned our plates.

Seafood linguini
The dessert options were equally impressive. I was already set on the flourless chocolate meringue after seeing it sitting by the kitchen window when we came in. The chocolate was dense and moist and oh so chocolatey…  and the meringue was truly impressive. Not hard and crunchy or overly egg-y, it was smooth and almost had a marshmallow-like texture. Incredible. It was served with a fresh berry sauce, which complemented the rich chocolate flavors completely. My dining partners opted for the pair of crème brulées. One was chocolate and the other tasted exactly like banana bread!

Flourless chocolate meringue
Overall the Aberdeen Tavern is a great new addition to the Hamilton food scene and to the neighbourhood. While the price point is a bit higher than I would have liked to see, you certainly won’t be disappointed with the food, the service or the atmosphere. I can’t wait to go back and enjoy their patio in the summer!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review. One minor point of contention though. A proper Manhattan is made with rye whiskey and never bourbon.