Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Ceili Cottage (guest post by Amy)

Mac 'N' Cheese

Two of my friends that I usually work out with, decided it was time we get together for a good meal instead of a good sweat. We decided to hit up The Ceili (pronounced kay-lee) Cottage in Leslieville – an Irish pub which was once an old auto shop. I started off with a Mill Street Lager and roasted and spiced Ontario peanuts – the beer was perfect, but the latter was neither roasted nor spiced. As I waited for my friends I noticed the smell of a wood burning stove that filled the air with a warm, “cottage-y” (go figure), type feel.
When my friends arrived through an entrance with virtually no signage, they sat down on wobbly chairs and ordered our mains from a not-so-friendly waitress. A sucker for a good mac and cheese I decided that I had to order just that, even though it’s not typically Irish fare. I must say, I was disappointed – it was ok – but quite bland and not rich and creamy like I was hoping for. ET had the special – a mutton burger with green tomato salsa and mixed greens and a Pinot Noir-McManis Californa 2007. The burger came with a side of some sort of dijon, horseradish spread which added a kick to the lamb and made me wish I had ordered it. SA ordered a Merlot - Tin Roof, CA 2005 and the Celtic and Canadian cheeses with Sausage Partners’ preserves and bread – the bread was delicious.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

To finish, my friends decided to split the sticky toffee pudding (note: waitress getting happier as night went on). For a girl that doesn’t like sweets, and I’m talking hasn’t eaten a birthday cake since her 4th birthday, I truly believed I wouldn’t like the dessert my friends demanded I try. Wow! I couldn’t have been more wrong, this was heavenly goodness. I even had a second bite, and a third, and ok, I even had a 4th. It was divine! I’d consider going back to this place for a few pints, but I definitely wouldn’t rush back for the service – the table beside me even commented on the waitresses’ attitude problem. The food was very reasonably priced, but it seemed to be hit and miss and that wood burning stove that cut the winter chill also made my hair & jacket stink for 2 days after!

I’m a small town girl who now resides in Toronto and can’t get enough of it…especially the restaurants! What can I say? I love to eat! Sometimes I wonder if I’m addicted to food. As one of Menu Maniac's roomies from university, I watched her whip up a roast leg of lamb while others ate Kraft Dinner. Her adventurous cooking has inspired me to attempt to cook, and although I try, living in Toronto is so hard when there are many tempting places to eat out. I’m an east-ender hoping to bring you some good options next time you visit Toronto.


  1. Thanks for checking this place out! I've walked by it a million times and have wanted to go. Now not so much. The idea of an Irish pub in an old auto repair shop doesn't do it for me, and from what you've written the food/service aren't that memorable either. Plus I heard the beers are $8 or $9 each which is just too much.

  2. Glad I could help make your decision Andy. It's too bad, I really wanted to like this place.

  3. More erroneous information. At times the service can be questionable. (Amy I think you were unlucky that you got the one server with attitude - I believe I've seen her in action!), but the fare is generally decent and reasonably priced. Beers are actually $7/$7.50 (taxes incl.), not $8/9 that Andy "heard". A cursory look at their website confirms this. I just get irritated when people pass on poorly researched information irresponsibly. (Not directed at you Amy!)

    Beers are great, good indy domestic selection - as you pointed out your Mill St was perfect. Peanuts, meh - OK. Mac 'n' Cheese, just OK, Burger sounded good, dessert "was heavenly goodness", and homemade bread was "delicious". Other items ordered were not reviewed. I'm just confused about the review as you say a lot of good things, yet from your comment above it appears you didn't like it?

    Been quite a few times myself, some of the menu items don't do it for me, but the Cottage Pie on Saturdays is always great, as is the steak. Smoked Salmon is outstanding, although the Mac isn't my thing. Guinness is one of the best pints in the GTA. Personally I love the peat they burn at the bar, but I can understand that's a personal taste! :)

  4. Josh, you are a maniac. Your use of the word erroneous makes me think of Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers. You, my friend, are erroneous.

  5. Wow thanks for contributing to this discussion with such a mature comment "Katie." If anyone in this discussion is erroneous, it's YOU. You probably don't even live anywhere near Leslieville.
    Josh you're quite right, I should have checked the menu on the website. A cursory look certainly did confirm it! I was way off on my beers are "$8 or $9 each" comment, and for that I am sorry. Poorly researched indeed...
    Maybe I will try that Cottage Pie sometime after all. It sounds superb. Goodbye maniacs.

  6. Thanks Josh, I did have mixed reviews on this place, some parts I liked, some I didn’t. Glad you have had some good luck while visiting The Ceili Cottage.

  7. I LOVED the mutton burger ... I'd have it again

  8. Kudos Amy & Josh, I wasn't having a go, just wondering what your thoughts were. I can understand the issues some people have had with the place, as there can be problems with consistency and also space. I tried to get in one Friday only to be told they were at capacity (I believe it's around 65/70), and there was nothing they could do. Obviously it's not their fault, but it's popularity outside of the East End appears to continue on the busier nights later in the week. It's not a large venue by any means, and from my visits I get the feeling that it is still a destination venue for some people given it's publicity and the owner's reputation in the city. Some nights I've been there it's been an awesome casual vibe with people just having good food and beers and fun, with a great buzz in the place, whereas other nights it feels like the Bay St Brigade are in in their suit jackets and pearls, and the feeling is very formal and almost feels forced/stuff. Just a different atmosphere.

    I've witnessed issues with one particular server on two separate occasions (I'm guessing from your article the same one you had Amy, and it can really put a dent in the night). Otherwise the staff are fantastic, and overall I would give it a 4/5. It's not perfect by any means, but I feel like as a local pub with good quality and decently priced food it's a winner, with more good than bad.

    I guess the fact that it doesn't take reservations, and it doesn't appear to style itself as a restaurant appeals to me, but the decor and menu is not everyone's cup of tea. I guess that it doesn't have the North American version of an Irish pub menu (i.e. wings, nachos, fries etc!) means that it suffers from an enhanced level of expectation, and people go thinking that it is setting itself up as a restaurant, but I don't get that. Not to say that some of the food and service issues could be improved, but for the most part it delivers for me. Just my $0.02 anyway. As a local it's a very welcome addition to the neighbourhood. :)

  9. Hi there,

    Good, honest review of a not-so-good restaurant. I have read many pieces excusing the Ceili Cottage's mediocre food "because it is a pub, not a restaurant." Whaa? This one leaves me scratching my head.

    I was there months ago with my wife and friends, and -- as east-end residents -- we hoped the place would be decent. The ONLY good thing was the sticky toffee pudding! The "buried treasure" mac and cheese was awful, and at $12, very poor value for the money. Likewise, the mutton was a poor cut of meat floating in a watery sauce.

    The "not so friendly" waitress may have been the owner's wife. She is referred to in many reviews and blogs, including BlogTo, Eye Magazine (the infamous hair in the food article) and others. When we were there, our party of four sat outside, and she grumbled OUT LOUD about how some people "should just leave," meaning us, and others who arrived at the same time! Having spent well over $200 at their establishment, we were, well, shocked. Suffice it to say, it was bloody rude!

    The beer was good, but how can you mess up beer?

    All in all, a very disappointing place, and I am saddened to read that the food and service haven't improved after all this time.