2 min

Mixed greens

Good drinks, iffy food at hairy pooch

From the outside, the Hair Of The Dog: A Neighbourhood Pub And Restaurant, promises an English pub experience. With its painted wood exterior, the place simply screams local hangout. But, inside, the latest addition to the Church St bar scene is much more ye olde merry New York.

On a dreary Sunday evening, my companion and I decide to give this new joint a whirl. The deal we’ve struck is that we’ll each order our favourite drink (a vodka, cointreau, cranberry cosmopolitan martini at $6.25 for him and a real – as in gin – martini for me at $5.75). Then, tough buggers that we are, we rate them against some of our more remarkable martini experiences.

The drinks arrive. My date, who thinks of himself as a slightly more masculine version of Sex And The City’s cosmo-swilling main character Carrie, lifts his glass and takes a cautious sip. The pronouncement: “This is the best Cosmopolitan I’ve ever had in Toronto,” he sighs.

Following his lead, I take a healthy gulp of my dry gin straight up with an olive. Perfection.

The real test, though, is the olive. Despite purists who say martinis are made with a twist of lemon, gin drinkers mostly agree that robust green olives are the best complement to this real drinker’s drink. I am not disappointed. Instead of the soggy, pimento-stuffed monstrosities I’ve endured in way too many establishments, this olive reminds me of a young sailor I once knew: Salty, yet firm.

But as my dear, departed godmother often said, “One cannot live on gin alone.” We ask for menus and our accommodating – without being greasy – server returns with them in a flash. But, I’m having trouble reading the damned thing. “It’s so dark in here,” I whine. My friend responds that it’s part of the ambience: “This is really a first date sort of place.” Taken aback, I tell him, “This doesn’t look a thing like David Balfour Park!”

The menu lists the usual stand-bys of calamari, nachos, salads and mains, including steak. Alas, I see little that tempts my vegetarian palate. Then, I am struck with the fear that many vegetarians share: “Am I developing a drinking problem because I can never find anything to eat?” Opting for another martini, I leave it to my friend to pick some edibles.

He chooses the nachos ($9) – a dreary, dry concoction that even the protein-deprived folks on Survivor would have passed over. We return to our drinks and decide to play Design Critic.

We agree that the Hair Of The Dog seems somehow familiar. “I’ve got it,” I declare. “It’s the bar at Terminal Two!” My friend concurs and adds that the colour scheme is yet another example of the ubiquitous “gay grey.”

The very next night, Mr Cosmo, a mutual friend and I return. My male friend orders a well-done burger with fries ($7). Our buddy orders the Thai chicken salad ($8). Both are pleased. In fact, Mr Cosmo insists that his burger is one of the nicest he has ever chowed down on. Our friend is equally happy with her salad: “Nice and peanuty,” she says.

I order the veggie burger with salad ($7). I am sorely disappointed: The greens are wet and the burger is one of those frozen Memories Of Something. (Lately, I’ve been spoiled by the veggie burgers at the House On Parliament at 456 Parliament St. They’re so life-like that customers often mistake them for meat!)

While the menu at Hair Of The Dog needs some attention, the drinks are fantastic and the servers are uniformly gorgeous and nice.

Hair Of The Dog.

11:30am-2am; kitchen till 11pm.

Accessibility: bathrooms upstairs.

425 Church St.

(416) 964-2708.

Conflict of interest? The Hair Of The Dog is owned by Fab publisher Michael Schwarz and Keir McRae, the mag’s legal counsel. According to reviewer Kerwin McLeister, Fab still owes him money from when he used to write for the magazine. A paragon of forgiveness, McLeister still tipped.