The 14,500 sq ft O&B Cafe Grill flagship, situated at Yonge and Front, is certainly a great looking restaurant. It’s spacious, chicly decorated, and very well maintained. The O&B website describes it as “…the destination for the city’s tastemakers, Bay Street’s movers and shakers and the urban dwellers of the neighbourhood.”
A lofty claim, though in many ways the restaurant stands up to the hype. Certainly, the first thing I noticed upon entering the packed establishment was that almost all the customers dining there were dressed in business suits or other formal attire (not hugely surprising given its location just steps away from Bay Street).
Wednesday. Lunch service. Table for 2.
The hostess checked in my coat, and walked me to a cosy two-person booth in the lounge. The lounge (pictured above) was thankfully located on a separate, quieter wing of the restaurant. It had a slightly more relaxed feel than the main dining hall, though still very well decorated.
I sat down, asked for a glass of water, and waited for my friend, A, to join me. I hadn’t seen A in a while, and was looking forward to catching up over a good meal. She had suggested the venue the evening before, it was the first time either of us was eating there. A arrived soon enough, a quick look through the menu and we were ready to order – Steak Frites ($24) for A, and the Grilled Calamari ($19) for me. For any vegetarians out there, a part of the menu, titled “Meat-ish”, is dedicated to vegetarian dishes. All the options sounded pretty appetising.
As we waited for our food, A began to tell me the story of a close friend of hers who had spent some probationary time training in the O&B Cafe Grill kitchen as a pastry chef. By every account, her friend was a shoe-in for permanent employment in the sought-after kitchen position until her final day of probation, when without any warning, she fainted! For the first time in her life. Her blood sugar levels suffered a sudden drop and she fainted. It wasn’t even a busy day for the kitchen. Needless to say, the poor girl wasn’t offered a permanent position at the restaurant.
A few stories in we realised that we had still not been served. It was close to 30 minutes before our food arrived.
The calamari, though maybe not the best presented of dishes, tasted good. My only real criticism of it would be the olives, which were not merely extremely sour but also extremely out of place.
A remarked that though she had asked for her steak to be cooked medium, she had received a well-done steak. That said, she had no other complaints and enjoyed her meal.
For dessert, I ordered the Dark Chocolate Torte ($8.50). It tasted great, I loved that they opted for a molten centre. The sugary cherry compote seemed overkill as I ended up pushing the pieces of cherry to the side. It was also a shame that the slice of cake I received had been broken in the kitchen (you can see the break in the photo above). Plating, in general, was a bit weak for both desserts as there were superfluous bits of cream or syrup unintentionally left along the edges of both dessert plates.
A ordered the Peanut Butter S’more ($3.50), a wee little thing resting on caramelised peanut butter; definitely something any PB lover would enjoy.
All in all, O&B Cafe Grill didn’t impress me as much as I had hoped. In fairness, the restaurant wasn’t bad. I had hoped to be overwhelmed by deliciousness. On the contrary, (despite the slow, but friendly, service) it was good. Just not as good as I would have thought.
Rating: 3.5 Well-Done Steaks / 5