Some people prefer to start the morning with coffee or orange juice. Others, a pint of Guinness. And, when nothing but an atmosphere complete with beer, brunch and the quiet charm of an upscale pub will do, Irish ex-pats and ex-pat wannabes can head to the Irish Embassy for their fill of Irish food, folklore, music and memorabilia.
Housed in a former bank building built in 1873, the place is busy at noon on a Saturday, but seating is still readily available. There's plenty of staff on hand, the beer is free-flowing and the CD sounds of Irish jigs (and East Coast band, Great Big Sea) play in the background. Dark, wood furniture dominates the decor, including mahogany high-top tables, cherry red leather banquettes, columns and a high ceiling. TVs are tucked into every available corner, tuned to local news or sports channels and old black and white photos of Ireland hang on the walls. Guinness and Kilkenny logos are branded on the mirrors lining every wall of the pub and old knick-knacks sit behind panes of glass.
Servers are diner-style friendly, and keep a careful watch on my coffee level, making sure it doesn't dip dangerously close to empty, which is helpful, considering the order takes awhile to arrive. There's no shortage of male clientele sitting at the copper bar, chatting with the bartender, having a drink and watching the Liverpool vs. Charlton soccer, err ... football match on this particular Saturday. The wafting scents of curry dishes make it a true pub experience.
On the menu: Some restaurants carry a few egg dishes on their menus and call it brunch, but not here. This is a full brunch menu complete with specialty brunch beverages, breakfast items, appetizers and salads, sandwiches and brunch entrees offered on weekends between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Menu items include the Irish Breakfast (eggs, Irish-style pork sausages, back bacon, black pudding, tomato, baked beans, home fries and toast) $12, Eggs Benedict on homemade Irish soda bread $11, traditional Irish Stew with lamb and vegetables $15, Chicken Curry $15, Kilkenny Battered Haddock, $15.
The crowd: Step into the Embassy on a weekend and you'll find reps from all walks of life: couples quietly chatting, tourists toting heavy luggage, families settling down small children, buddies having a drink, boisterous tables of friends, and lone male diners. During the week, the pub's proximity to Toronto's financial district makes it a favourite with the white-collar crowd.
Brunch for two: $40
By Sabrina Melchiori