Sometimes a pre-theatre meal is an euphemism for “rushed”, but not in Stratford. When taking reservations, many restaurants will actually ask you what time your performance is at so that they can orchestrate your meal accordingly. And at the Prune, your pre-theatre meal will be so good that you’ll be looking through the new playbills just to find another excuse to come back here.
Joel Kechnie, restaurant manager extraordinaire, was primarily responsible (though the whole team was great) for our incredibly enjoyable evening. When asked to describe the style of the restaurant, he stated, “this is gourmet without the pretentious price tag” adding, “we would rather make more people happy than please a select few”. Without a doubt, Toronto has a tendency to charge hefty amounts for beautiful mediocrity, but it’s not just the value you get from the actual food on your plate that makes this place stand out. At the Prune, you get everything you would expect from fine dining, white linen service, but no one sticks their noses up at nobody. There was a indeed a very glamorous couple near us who got the royal treatment they came for, but similarly, there were casual dining groups who came to kick it with their old friends. Coincidentally, my friend Toby was also dining at this restaurant with her family pre-King Lear and had nothing but wonderful things to say about all aspects of her experience either.
Each guest can select from three prix-fixe levels, from $49 to $69 (we did the 3-course $59 option), with an amuse bouche (we had little lobster salads on fennel crackers) and petit fours (chocolate) bookending everyone’s meals. Though often neglected, their buttery rolls and crisp filtered water (yes, I even liked the water) added extra points for this establishment too.
The menu was seasonally appropriate, which was particularly evident with the bright sweet pea soup poured over smoked trout, dill and carrots that my friend Brad ordered (my recommendation if you want something unique and beautiful). My cold smoked salmon with deviled quail’s egg was also delicious. We were also given a plate of Chef Bryan Steele’s signature Chicken Liver Mousse, with Armagnac prunes and brioche, that was served a blazing with a cinnamon stick. Smooth, rich, and very fragrant.
Entrees? The lamb (special that day) is just a well-balanced plate of delicious perfection, but let me tell you, the Black Cod was transcendent. Transcendent. And the portions left us full but with just enough room (thankfully) for the incredible desserts. If we didn’t already see sweet pea appear in two of our dishes, we would have probably gotten the sour cream ice cream with sweet pea and mint. But boy oh boy, the Warm Apple Cake with Speculoos (seriously, someone come and wipe this silly smile off my face), with a beautiful toasted meringue on top, was incredible. The Chocolate Bread Pudding was pretty stellar too.
Final Notes: This was an outstanding dining experience. Not only does the Prune have punch on its own, but it warms my heart to know that it is also a training ground for students from the Stratford Chefs School. Finally, when I was apologetically informed that the chef was not in that night, it only impressed me more. A true testament of a great chef is not just the ability to lead a team to realize your vision, but to instill in them a sense of pride that they can realize your vision even in your absence. Truly amazing experience.
Location: 151 Albert St, Stratford, ON
PS- If you want to read about the rest of our Stratford food-filled day, click here.