Go for the big screens and beer

Food not the main draw at Midtown Kitchen & Bar

Some of you may have noticed that the space formerly occupied by Broken Plate in Kensington has a new tenant. Completely overhauling the room and concept Midtown Kitchen & Bar offers the neighbourhood a contemporary-style pub that claims to focus on local food craft beer and wine and spirits but the food could use more attention.

Making good use of the space Midtown has transformed the room to suit a wide array of guests. Featuring an illuminated bar there is a mix of communal and small tables for both large and intimate parties as well as four intrusive large-screen TVs. That said it’s a full house on the Tuesday night we visit and many eyes are on those screens so this may be something the locals are craving.

Seating ourselves at a comfy banquette we peruse the beer menu. Midtown features over 60 selections by the bottle and on tap including seasonal and cask ales. If you can’t decide what you want you might want to try on of its rotating beer flight options.

Midtown also features daily food specials and Tuesday is a “buck a shuck” oyster night but as diners on both sides of us express their dissatisfaction with the mollusks on their plates we decide to avoid that route.

Instead we start with a selection of appetizers. My husband orders the pork belly ($10) a simple dish comprised of crispy deep-fried chunks of fatty pork served with a smoked tomato confit. The dish reminds me of riblets only with a lot more fat. I’ve had pork belly in a variety of ways and I usually like it but this dish isn’t doing it for me. Next.

From the small plates section we also get the dip duo ($8) served with toasted baguette and a white bean and cheddar ale dip. Topped with a sprinkle of crisp prosciutto the white bean dip is smooth and tasty. The tangy cheddar ale dip is also good but in a way that might remind you of a layer dip your mom made in the ’80s. Our only issue is that the bread to dip ratio sorely lacks.

For my main I try the Gorgonzola mac & cheese ($13) with a side of wilted kale and bacon (they were out of the crispy green beans). Oozing with Gorgonzola flavour this dish is probably a better side option. I like it but only in a small dose as it is incredibly creamy and rich with a strong blue taste. I’m thankful to the wilted kale and bacon for contrast but wouldn’t get it as a side again.

Which brings us to my husband’s main a train wreck called “crispy fried chicken” ($15) . The menu description reads: Biscuit black pepper white gravy. We were a little shocked when the chicken that arrived was a boneless battered breast served on a toasted bun. Where’s the biscuit? The peppery batter is tasty enough but the expected crunchy crust is replaced with soggy mush even in places where there was no gravy.

This was barely a passable chicken sandwich let alone crispy fried chicken. We would have been happier if the kitchen drove down the street and plunked Chicken-on-the-Way on our plate. At least that’s an honest go at real fried chicken.

Hoping to finish on a better note we get the toffee pudding with bourbon caramel ($6). The strong gingerbread flavour is unexpected but it doesn’t hurt the dish. Overall it’s the exact kind of sweet syrupy lava-cakey dessert you’d expect from a pub. Take that as you will.

I don’t think we’ll be heading back to Midtown Kitchen & Bar anytime soon. It’s a good spot if you want to catch a game with friends but the food lacks substance. On the plus side our server was really nice and she definitely tried but she was overwhelmed by the full house and as a result the service was spotty.