Sunday, June 16, 2013

Belgravia Hub - Edmonton, AB

It had been a long week and after being on-call for fifty-six hours last weekend, and I was looking forward to having a much-needed "free" weekend. The day had already started on a good note, with most of my day being spent in a classroom as opposed to being run off my feet. Shannon and I had plans to play some Badminton at the University with some friends and we were both adorned in our best athletic gear. At around 9PM, Eric made a surprise visit, driving straight from Banff and with the whole team from All Eric Can Eat reunited after almost four months, there was only one logical next-step: we decided to check out the new kid on the block, Belgravia Hub.
Wine Bar at Belgravia Hub
Shannon, our resident restaurant researcher, had just recently heard of Belgravia Hub's grand-opening and, as it was an easy fifteen-minute walk in warm Edmonton sun, we decided to head straight over to the restaurant without making a pit-stop at home first. With its rather odd location, being situated right in the middle of a residential area, and with the word "Hub" in its name, I was expecting to walk into a casual diner/pub-type restaurant. What we found instead was a beautifully dark-wood decorated restaurant featuring a large, wall-to-wall wine bar playing host to a sophisticated crowd. Shannon and I were a little hesitant walking into the restaurant - especially decked out in my baggy soccer shorts, black zip-up hoody, and flip flops - and we were both regretting our decision not to make a stop at home to clean ourselves up first (Eric in his skinny khakis, on the other hand, blended right in with the clientèle). After a few minutes of milling about debating whether we should do a U-turn home first, we decided to take a few slow steps into the restaurant, praying at the same time that Belgravia Hub did not have a strict dress code. We were greeted immediately and enthusiastically by the hostess, who later turned out to be our waitress, and led to our table by the window. The décor featured dark wood tables and black cushion chairs: simple, elegant, and not overly-pretentious. The "look" overall reminded me very much of The Common and with the service, environment, and down-to-earth nature of our waitress, I was instantly at-ease despite my rather bummy look.

A Taste of Summer
Our waitress came by with three glasses of water, which featured - oddly enough - slices of cucumber instead of lemon. The slices of cucumber added a nice, subtle flavour of cucumber to the water which we all found incredibly refreshing. It was definitely a nice change from the lemon water and was just a hint of some of the food-forward type of thinking put into the menu at Belgravia Hub. The menu was quite small with only a few real entrées and many more appetizers than entrées. After a quick browse, and a few debates, we decided to order the Short Rib Sliders and Shrimp Bruschetta to start and the Mushroom Risotto and Blackened Chicken entrées to share family-style.
Short Rib Sliders
It was quite a while before our orders came out - almost 40 minutes since we ordered - and all of us were sorely missing some sort of amuse-bouche or at least the complimentary bread that comes with most other restaurants to nibble on while we waited. After a rather long wait, we finally received our dishes all at once. Our waitress was incredibly attentive and sharp, and instantly picked up on the fact that we were planning to do family-style dining. She brought three extra side plates along with our cutlery without even being asked! - Great service points! We decided to start with the Short Rib Sliders ($12), which consisted of braised short rib, mayonnaise, and some fennel slaw served on a baked brioche slider buns. The buns were a little cool for Shannon and my liking, as if they had been sitting on the counter for a few minutes too long. Other than that though, the Short Rib Sliders were our favourite savoury dish of the meal! The mayonnaise was light and creamy with a unique, slightly sweet, though indescribable flavour and was the real star of the dish. The short ribs were given in a generous portion and were fall-apart tender and full of flavour. Eric thought the short ribs were just a smidge on the dry side, though Shannon and I had no problems with it (perhaps we were too fixated on the delicious mayonnaise which more than made up for any deficiency in the slider). The fennel slaw, composed mostly of red cabbage, had an excellent pickled flavour and added a nice, fresh crunch to the slider. The slider was a great starter that hit a number of flavour notes - sweet, savoury, and sour - while maintaining excellent balance between all of them.

Shrimp Bruschetta
Our next appetizer was the Shrimp Bruschetta ($9) and was composed of roasted corn, roasted red peppers, and sweet chili zinger sausage. This was the dish I was most excited to try (and in fact insisted on) and it did not disappoint. The sauce had a nice tomato flavour to it which was complimented by the sweetness of the roasted corn and contrasted nicely by a subtle element of heat. The shrimp was cooked perfectly to a nice tender texture. The sweet chili zinger sausage was a little crumbly and dry for my liking, but otherwise had good flavours and added a nice amount of spiciness to the dish. The most disappointing part of the dish was the fact that the dish only came with two pieces of toasted bread, which was way too few to properly enjoy all of the bruschetta. As we were three, we asked for additional crostinis which were promptly an additional cost of $1.50. While it is not a ridiculous price to pay, the ratio of bruschetta to bread is a little over the top and Belgravia Hub would better serve its customers by adding a few more pieces of bread / crostinis to the dish (or at least providing additional crostinis on the side free-of-charge, considering they don't provide complimentary bread).
Mushroom Risotto
Our first main of the night was the Mushroom Risotto ($14) which consisted of roasted mushroom, Asiago cheese, and Balsamic glaze. In my opinion, the dish was a little unappetizing in terms of presentation - it literally looked like a heap of thick, brown risotto; luckily for us, Belgravia Hub prescribes to the dogma of "never judging a book by its cover" as all of the flavours were there. I am not a huge fan of risotto, but both Shannon and Eric said the risotto was quite good. It had a nice creamy texture, a strong Asiago flavour (beware if you're not a fan of strong cheeses, as the cheese has a very distinct flavour), and notes of mushroom flavour throughout each bite. Despite the flavours being there, I found the risotto a bit on the heavy side for my liking, though I admit, I generally like lighter, non-cream based risottos. In addition, I felt the dish to be lacking any acidity or Balsamic flavour, which I think would have helped lighten up the dish overall.

Blackened Chicken
Our final entrée of the dish was the Blackened Chicken ($16) which was served with buttered leek mash and fennel slaw. The skin of the chicken was nicely blackened and had an appreciable crisp to it. The rub had a good amount of salt and it was agreed around the table that the flavour was great. While the chicken breast was a good portion and cooked well (perfectly moist and tender), we all found that the chicken overall lacked flavour. If there had been more of the rub used throughout the chicken, it probably would not have tasted as bland as it did. The buttered mash leek tasted more like mashed potatoes, though it was well cooked and the texture was soft and creamy. The same fennel slaw used in our sliders was served with the Blackened Chicken, and was as enjoyable in round two as it was in round one. Shannon and myself especially could not get enough of the fennel slaw, which offset the saltiness of the chicken and the heaviness of the leek mash in the dish.
Bourbon Pecan Pie
We were all fairly stuffed by the time we finished the four dishes, but, being the food enthusiasts that we were, we elected to take a look at the dessert menu anyway. We were told that regrettably, the fruit crumble and ice cream were sold out that night, which left us with only three choices for dessert. After a bit of a debate and a recommendation from our waitress, we settled on the Bourbon Pecan Pie to split between the three of us. I don`t know if the fruit crumble was better, but the Bourbon Pecan Pie was one of the best desserts I have ever had! The candied pecans were light, nutty, and had just the right amount of crunch. They were just the most perfect candied pecans I've tasted and were the highlight of the dish. There was just a subtle hint of caramel flavour which didn't overpower the dish and allowed the pecans' nuttiness to shine throughout each bite. The crust was fairly average compared to the rest of the dish and I wish it was a little more on the flakier side.

After our dessert, Executive Chef Sarah, who stopped by our table later on that evening, was kind enough to explain the concept behind the restaurant and the menu. Belgravia Hub sprung from the vision of four chefs, including Owner and Chef Leslie, Executive Chef Sarah, and two other Edmonton Chefs. Executive Chef Sarah, who is the only one from outside of Edmonton (her roots being in Peterborough, ON - just outside of Toronto), said the focus of their menu is seasonal rather than local. Each of the Chefs bring something special to the table, said Chef Sarah, and they work as a team to create and build on each other's inspired dishes. For example, the Bourbon Pecan Pie we tried tonight came from Chef Leslie's repertoire of dishes while Chef Sarah focused on some of the appetizers we perused on the menu. Together, their aim is the bring the freshest ingredients to their menu at the best price for their customers and to create the most enjoyable dishes of each meal. As such, their menu will change four times a year along with each new season. Right now, they're still serving their "Winter" menu, which features heavier and heartier foods and will be transitioning into their summer menu which will spotlight "lighter foods, with more fresh vegetables and fruits" in the next couple of months. As for their rather obscure location, Chef Sarah explained that the old location used to be Belgravia Books and was owned by a close acquaintance and business partner of Chef Leslie. After buying the building, they stripped the building down to its core and redecorated it with dark wooden floors and tables to give it the warm dining atmosphere it showed off today. But never mind the odd location, after only being open just three weeks, the Hub has already established a regular clientèle, Chef Sarah assured us. 

Belgravia Hub was a surprise in more than just one way tonight. We decided to go on a last minute whim, and despite being fairly down-dressed, we were all welcomed warmly into Belgravia Hub. Despite its location, even at 9PM, Belgravia Hub had only a few tables free and we could clearly see that their clientèle were thoroughly enjoying their experience at the Hub. Its décor was beautiful, creating a warm and cosy dining experience without being pretentious in the least. Service was excellent and we all commented on how genuinely friendly and down-to-earth our waitress was, without being intrusive to our meal. The food was superb and was great value for the price. I (we all probably) will be back to the new kid on the block in anticipation of the summer menu.

Top Pick of the Night: Short Rib Sliders and Bourbon Pecan Pie


4/5 Erics

Belgravia Hub on Urbanspoon

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