35 Elm Street
"It feels like we just crashed somebody's living room party."
The Queen and Beaver Public House, which is owned and operated by Jamieson Kerr, who also owns Crush Wine Bar, is situated between two restaurants at 35 Elm street, a quiet side street just off of Yonge, and upon entering I think those were the first words out of my mouth when the group I was with took our seats in the middle of the second floor room.
The two floor establishment, which opened on Monday (June 15), has been designed to resemble an authentic British pub, and ironically its housed in an old Victorian building.
Queen and Beaver: Pub - Our Definition
Throughout history, the pub has been the place for people to relax, to celebrate, to mourn, to talk, to drink and to eat. This is tradition and we love it.
The first floor is divided into three dining areas, each secluded from each one another. To the right of entering is a small sun room with a number of couches, chairs and tables all facing out to Elm street and over look the sidewalk patio. This little room is decorated with a number of mirrors, mismatched furniture and tacky yellow wallpapering.
Walking further into the pub, still on the right, you'll enter the dining area that is nicely laid out to accommodate 40 or so customers. This area features low hanging lighting, a polished wood floor, red brick columns, a couple of old oil paintings and the ceilings bare some beautiful Victorian style mouldings. The bar is at the front of the room and is surrounded by six bar chairs. A chalkboard hangs to the left and lists the drink menu.
Back out to the wonderfully decorated front entrance and down the hallway leads you to a secluded back room featuring a lone kitchen table for private gatherings. The room is completely covered in wallpaper and a large screen television is fixed to the wall while a dimly lit chandelier hangs from the ceiling. This would be a great room to bring a close group of friends to celebrate a birthday or to to celebrate an anniversary.
The pub upstairs is where I feel more at home though, so it's up the carpeted flight of old stairs to the second level. Wooden planked flooring is the first thing I noticed upon reaching the top of the stairs, it runs throughout the entire floor.
When we entered the upstairs loft it was pretty full and seating was scarce. We managed to grab a couple of chairs and a couple of ottomans and as we sat down the room suddenly became quiet as the other patrons observed our actions - hence the "It feels like we just crashed somebody's living room party" line I mentioned earlier.
Looking around at all the leather couches, big cozy lounge chairs, the bookcase full of a wide variety of books, the framed Manchester United soccer jersey on the wall, the many framed soccer photographs, and the exposed brick walls, it felt like we were in a basement living room; and that is exactly the goal of the Queen and Beaver - to recreate the 'real' culture of the public house, a place to eat, drink, talk, relax, feel at home.
There is another full service wooden 'U' shaped bar upstairs next to the entrance and is guarded by a the pubs mascot - a wooden beaver. There are a number of seats surrounding the bar that are all in service during our visit with people who already appear to be regulars (even though it was open less than 8 hours). In front of all the couches and leather seating is a large plasma television hanging on the brick wall to show soccer games, which should attract a loyal following of footy fans.
One of the pubs best features rests outside the windows of the second level - a terrific patio with enough seating for upwards of 30 people. Large elm trees (hence the name of the street) provide a sheeting of shade, which would make sitting on the patio a lot more comfortable even on the hottest days.
So if you're going to open an authentic British gastropub you better have some cask conditioned ale. Kerr has chosen Wellington's Arkell to satisfy this essential piece of pub culture, unfortunately there was none to be found during our visit. However there was an exceptionally fresh pint of Denison's Weissbier put in my hands by our studious server and the others claimed they've haven't tasted such a fresh pint of Creemore Springs Traditional Lager in a long time. These were the only two beers available on opening night but you can expect to see a number of other well crafted beers like: McAuslan Cream Ale, St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, Fuller's Chiswick, and Czechvar (Budvar) Pilsner. The cost of a pint at the Queen and Beaver sits at a hefty $7, but you're not just paying for the beer in the glass, but the atmosphere in which you are drinking it. I do find it a little hard to swallow paying $8 for a pint of cask ale, before taxes, but again it's the experience. Though, my session would likely end at two pints at these rates.
The food, which I didn't get to, is prepared by Chef Andrew Carter and looked exceptional. Most of the mains fall under $20 and judging by the items listed on the food menu, it seems reasonable. The Queen and Beaver will also be serving brunch on weekends.
Full attention has been put into bringing a true British pub to Toronto's downtown and I think Kerr has succeeded admirably. A fine dining experience downstairs, a pub-living room atmopshere with a sports twist upstairs, along with two nice patios and great character, make this pub a winner in my books. Like the Feather's pub (British) in the Upper Beaches, the Queen and Beaver Public House should have no problem retaining customers and last well into the future.
**Pictures were taken the day after I visited, after the pub just opened**