Sunday, October 30, 2011

Back Lane Cafe is superb......

A cafe so new that the web site isn't up yet, there is no Facebook page but they do have a twitter feed to follow (@backlanecafe). The Back Lane Cafe is in Hintonburg where the Ethiopian Cafe was next to Giant Tiger. We've had it in our periphery vision recently so it was time to try it out as the Ottawa Breakfast Club.

We walked into a revamped cafe with interesting art on the walls hung from old knob and tube fixtures. It was busy but not full and we asked for a table for 6. The (I think) owner initially refused to put two tables together and insisted on having us dine at two side-by-side '4 tops' - really not ideal but we had little choice. Then the waiter came over and saw the dilemma and suggested we move the tables together! The first guy relented and we were allowed to move together. Not a great start to brunch!

The menu is interesting and not your usual brunch fair. The 'benny' is on a 'biscuit' with a homemade sausage patty and served with a bulgar pilaff and some fruit. There was a duck pastrami hash served with a couple of eggs. The scramble came with bacon, beans and the pilaff.

Coffee was served (very good coffee and only $2 for endless refills), water was poured and orders taken by a very pleasant young man (the one who saw fit to allow us to eat together). 

A range of food was soon winging it's way out of the kitchen served on rectangular platters rather than normal round plates. The presentation was excellent. One of us wanted ketchup and had to do without; this isn't a 'ketchup type' place!

Most agreed that the food was very good. My 'benny' was superb; the sausage had a hint of fennel, the biscuit was delightful and the poached eggs cooked perfectly. Together with the bulgar pilaff this all made for one very tasty breakfast. If I had been super hungry you could argue that it wasn't a great deal of food but this isn't a greasy spoon, pile it high place. This is brunch fine dining and at $16 and $14 for most of the plates it should be.

The coffee flowed, the eggs were eaten and the homemade bread was slathered with the in-house raspberry jam. Wonderful food.

I also tasted the duck pastrami hash and that was lovely and spicy and I'm definitely having that when we go back (maybe next week).

Apart from the lack of ketchup it's hard to say anything bad about this place. I didn't need it but, come on, if you have a brunch menu at least have it available for those who want it. Presented in a small dish perhaps rather than spoiling the table with plastic squeeze bottles. I understand the reasoning behind not having it out but not as to why it's not available if requested.

One of the best brunch places ever!

Looking forward to next week and the plate of duck pastrami all to myself.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

2 in the same week? Art-Is-In bakery; a belated blog post.

I got my thinking cap on this morning and remembered that we did, indeed, go to somewhere new (to the OBC) recently but I didn't post anything. This post hopefully rectifies that omission.

Art-Is-In bakery and cafe is in a strange location, not for a bakery, but for a cafe/bistro type affair. City Centre is a well known light industrial complex that, among other businesses, houses printers, laminators, framers and dry cleaners. So you don't expect to find a medium sized bakery selling it's wares, soups, sandwiches and, of course, coffee.

It works, though.

We decided to try out AII's brunch menu a few weeks ago. I'd already tried their AMAZING croissants and I have to state here and now that they are the BEST in town (the French Bakery on Murray comes a close second in my book).

The cafe seating area is mainly benches and long tables with a small couch and coffee table and also a stool/bar area in the window. When this place gets busy it can get cramped but that is all part of the ambience of the place. We found that after you lined up and ordered your breakfast choice, got a coffee and paid - tables sort of free up, magically.

We got a long table and as there were 8 of us it was still cozy but in a good way. While our food was being prepared we were able to watch the customers coming in and getting bread, croissants and coffee to go and it's a mixed bunch. People seem to come from all around. People seem to travel to get here too, it's a big draw when you produce breads of this quality.

Breakfast was superb with the highlight being a fennel sausage.

This place would be on our regular list if the seating area could be a bit bigger. I imagine the unit has enough room to re-jig the layout but I have no idea if the owners are thinking of doing that.

Art-Is-In bakery gets a 8/10 but would get a 9 if seating was super-sized.


Monday, October 24, 2011

The resurrection blog; Ralph and Sons.........

It's been a while, but until recently there really hasn't been any new places to write about (unless you count the paint and carpet job at Cozys, which is just 'that' and a dip in food quality and taste). Well that's controversial in and of itself, having a 'go' at our mainstay of a Sunday breakfast in the first paragraph!

When you 'revamp' a place as 'under new management' and assume the old management got it wrong, you could be in deep trouble! The walls are bare, the ambiance (what there was of it) has gone, our favourite waitress has gone, the plates are smaller and the food doesn't have the taste it had. I imagine these are some of the improvements. Well, none of us were impressed and although we'll probably give it another chance sometime soon, it's got a lot of things to revamp back to the way it was.

OK, now that's off my chest on to the new place. Not new for Ottawa, it's a mainstay and a popular place, but new for the OBC or 'Brunch bunch' as we've come to be known as, thanks to the girls at Highjinx.

Ralph and Sons is a diner attached to the convenience store part of a gas station on Carling up in the Crystal Bay/Beach area. It's out a ways but most of us thought it was worth the extra 10 minutes it took to get there.

One of our 'bunch' had passed the placed for 30 years and never eaten here and it's been on our radar a while, so this was the sunday to try it out.

This place is busy with a capital B! We grabbed a table for 4 next to a table of 4 about to leave so we were lucky! Although another waitress almost gave the second table away before we alerted her! We were a 7 that became a 9 so it was a bit cramped on a table for 8 but we were accommodated.

The menu is basic and easy to make choices from yet some of the calculations don't always add up (one extra egg as a side was $1.49 and 2 extra eggs as a side were $2.99! Do the math!

Coffee was flowing as well as an included OJ (although it was a shooter glass size) and orders were given. Service was fast and efficient if a little inpersonal, but hey, they were very busy.

They say (other reviews and accounts of the place) that the bacon is the best in Ottawa. Well I thought it was OK and others thought it was exactly that. The beans are good here, my eggs as well as others' eggs were cooked perfectly and I guess my only gripe is that the home fries were undercooked and mushy as if they had been under-fried and then left in a heap to steam away. Oh, and the toast was a little bit under-toasted.

A pic of one of the plates.

On the whole, everyone liked the place and it's def on the 'go again' list.

A pic of James Dean and unidentified bystander outside Ralph's.

While I'm here I just wanted to give a shout out to the new place that served me the best espresso I have had in a very long time; a new coffee house on Somerset just on the outskirts of CT called The Daily Grind Art Cafe. Very laid back place, great coffee and great pastry and cake. Check it out!

until next time........