When you head out with friends and family for a Friday night, work-week’s-done celebration, a local pub is a natural choice. You know you can find your favourite libation, an energetic, friendly crowd, and even some passable fare. But seldom do you expect hand-crafted fine cuisine to go along with your suds and smiles. The owners of the Grand Hotel in Carleton Place have changed all that with the Smith and Barrel Pub and Eatery.
The owners and management were stunned at the crowds that appeared shortly after their Sept. 11 opening and the unusually summer-like weather kept their patio at the corner of Bridge Street and Lake Avenue hopping.
I attended with my partner and neighbours on a Friday evening and, like everyone else visiting for the first time since the major renovations were completed, we were blown away by the decor.
The designers went for a traditional British Isles pub look and hit the mark with amazing accuracy. Rich wood tones and leather accents made us feel welcomed and comfortable and the faux-tin ceiling treatment added just the right touch of old-world charm.
We were hungry and the menu didn’t disappoint. The pub’s classically-trained chef has created a wide variety of apps and mains to suit every taste. Before we took one bite a quick look around the place told us he knows what he’s doing. I’ve never seen such a wide representation of our local demographics. There were couples of all ages, office/work groups, families, friends from ages 4 to 84, and everyone was having a great time.
I ordered a reasonably priced ‘beef cheeks’ sandwich and my wife tried the crispy fish, crab, and shrimp sandwich. Both came on fresh locally-sourced sourdough bread and were served with a choice of hand-cut fries or fresh-greens salad. My beef cheeks (Acorn Farm roasted beef chips) were topped with a freshly prepared celeriac and horseradish remoulade and the seafood affair benefited from a lobster tartar sauce and charred corn relish. Thanks to excellent table service, we all received our dishes hot and fresh out of the kitchen with little delay, even though the pub was packed. The bread was soft and chewy and perfectly complimented the meats and toppings that were cooked to perfection and had our table silent as we savoured every bite
Of course, since this is a pub, we paired our selections with a glass of craft beer from a moderate but popular number of choices.
The chef takes full advantage of seasonal vegetables and local meats to add to the pub’s main menu with a selection of unique daily specials. The appetizer choices are as numerous as the mains and display the chef’s skill at infusing some new tastes into old favourites such as his duck confit poutine or juniper and dill cured lox.
While many patrons use the term, upscale to describe the Smith and Barrel’s menu, its price points can fit every budget with apps ranging from $6 to $26 and the mains from $14 to $29. Our evening out with wine, two pints and mains can to a very reasonable $74 with tax and tip. This is a foody haven you can put on your calendar as a regular stop.
The Smith and Barrel is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and you can reach them at 613 492 1566. The Grand Hotel will be opening their main dining hall in late October of this year and if their pub’s success is any indication, you’ll definitely want to make reservations.