67 Clarence St., Ottawa – (613) 562-0674 – Website
Date of Visit: December 5, 2012
The Heart and Crown is one of a group of twelve associated pubs, one of which is the Auld Dubliner Pub, reviewed by myself earlier this year. I seem to recall stopping by the place with my wife some years ago for a drink, but this is the first time I have ever visited for a bite to eat. The menu is typical pub fare, including burgers and a shepherd’s pie, but they also feature a Guinness beef stew and a ‘Chicken Curry with Chips’, which, interestingly, they describe as an ‘Irish Standard’. I rather wish, after sampling their steak, that I had chosen the curry instead…
Ambience and Service
The pub is not very large and is divided into a number of different areas in a way that is quite cozy, especially with all the lovely dark wood and the low ceilings. I arrived at about noon and the place was about half full, with only a few of the people I saw having meals rather than just drinks. When full, the place would be a bit of a tight fit, for the seating is a rather cramped, and the tables, moreover, are very tiny, which is fine for just drink glasses, but a bit of a nuisance for eating.
I was greeted and shown to a seat immediately upon arrival and the woman who served me was very personable and friendly. I sampled a number of their beers before eating, and I was never left waiting for more than a few minutes.
Hand-cut New York Steak Frites – This was described as a grilled AAA strip-loin served with a port-shallot demi-glace, hand-cut fries and a house-crafted ketchup. One could also order, as an optional topping, black tiger shrimp, or sautéed mushrooms and onions but I didn’t bother with either.
The steak, I have to say was a disappointment. It was approximately 8oz and the cut was not very good. It was gristly, quite tough, and contained several pockets of flabby, rather unpleasant fat. I ordered it medium-rare and well-charred, as I always do with steak, but the result wasn’t even close. The waitress apologized when she brought it to me, explaining that the kitchen is not really able to char steaks, but this apology really didn’t explain the poorness of the grill-work as I can do a much better job in a cast-iron pan at home than the grey-brown, and unappealing affair I ultimately ended up with here. It was rare, not medium-rare, and while I prefer erring on the side of undercooking rather than cooking too much, I wasn’t at all impressed with the job. The one bright spot in the meal was the demi-glace, which was very good. All too often, a touted ‘demi-glace’ in such places is little more than a boring gravy made from powder, but this was nicely rich and had a delicate hint of garlic and rosemary rounding it out. Unfortunately, it was not enough to save the steak and I could only rate this meal at a 2 out of 5.
I liked the pub itself, on the whole. It is the sort of place I like and I would be happy to make it a regular watering place if I lived locally. Unfortunately, I really was a bit put off by the meal I had and, while it would be unfair, to completely dismiss the kitchen offerings on the basis of one bad meal, I can’t say I am in a rush to go back there to eat any time soon. I would, maybe, like to try their Guinness Beef Stew sometime, but, at present, I can only hope that it will be bit better than this rather poor showing…