Toad and Tart English Pub
Smith Bay across from St. Thomas Ceramic Factory. Dinner 5 p.m. — until
Bar 3 p.m.–until. Mon. through Sat Closed Sun. Hearty British pub food, seafood, burgers, roasts, and daily specials. $ Cards: AX, MC, V, D, 775-1153.
One of the really great things about this cheery, 30+ square-mile island is the diversity of the residents. In the food world, this yields the possibility of many different styles of cooking.
The Toad and Tart genre can be found in almost any nook and cranny of the United Kingdom. It is an intimate establishment, which capitalizes on the character of the publican, owner and manager.
This pub has a great room with bar and table seating, and a more intimate dining room allowing for a different atmosphere depending upon the clientele. Walk into the establishment and you become one with the staff and patrons.
The exterior of this establishment reminds me of my favorite B&B in Ireland. When I stepped off the train outside the village of Carrick-on-Shannon, I asked the station master, the local version of a leprechaun, for a recommendation of a B&B.
He said he couldn't help me, as he was a public servant. If I took the road to the village, however, I would pass two opposing B&Bs. One would look like a picture postcard but "looks can be deceiving." Sure enough there they were and we checked in to the rough and wooly one.
Turns out they had a fire and had just finished redoing the interior. After cleaning up, we found ourselves in the kitchen drinking tea, sampling huge wedges of apple pie fresh from the oven, and meeting all the village characters as they wandered through the kitchen. Yes, sir, looks can be deceiving.
One of the primary ingredients in a pub is the access to libation. Generally speaking, pubs are the products of a brewery with free flowing beer, ale, etc., a prerequisite. Unfortunately, St. Thomas is extremely short on supply with regard to draft products but if it is available, it can be found at the T&T.
When I dined there, they had a most flavorful microbrewed "Happy's Local Ale" by the bottle at $1. The quality and price begged for optimal consumption.
While a pub's menu is usually relatively limited, it all deserves a sample. One key ingredient in a simple fare is an onion ring. T&Ts onion rings score well for being served hot and dry from the fryer. They are real onion, but suffer from a relatively heavy batter when used prior to dinner. For drinking, on the other hand, they give one something to chew on.
The backbone of all English pubs is Shepherd's Pie. Obviously my English great-grandfather's genes are still active as I always have room for Shepherd's Pie. At the Toad and Tart you get a large bowl with a third to a half-pound of lean ground beef with a most tasteful array of fresh seasonings. This concoction is smothered in fresh mashed potatoes with a most pleasant mix of pieces, which convince you the potatoes are fresh.
If want a more varied platter, the Guinness Pie is a great wedge of lean beef in a light pastry shell covered by a dark gravy featuring Guinness Stout. This was accented by helpings of mash, squash, beans and peas.
The dessert choice is relatively narrow, but the apple pie is quality. Served hot with a good ball of cinnamon swirl ice cream, and definitely a palate pleaser.
The night I visited I was served by the barmaid with interaction by the cook. Quick, unobtrusive service with the minimum of flourish. Everything I wanted was there, the food was brought to the table literally steaming, and I had but to ask and I was rewarded.
The toilets are used by the staff and maintained to the standards of home. Clean and and well-stocked.
In summary, the Toad and Tart is one of those jewels so many search for. Rib-sticking food at a most fair price, cooked with love, spiced enough to excite one's palate without overwhelming, and served unobtrusively in an interesting and pleasant atmosphere. Thank you, ladies. I will return.
Editors' note: The Tottering Taster is a senior citizen dedicated to enjoying good food. He will dine in one local establishment a week and bring you a totally unsolicited assessment biased in favor of an ultimate experience. We are using a pseudonym so that restaurateurs will not be able to identify the reviewer and try to influence the review.
TOAD AND TART: PURE PUB
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