AO Pasta38 Erie StreetStratford, ON N5A 2M4(519) 305-3838Winter lunch: Tuesday…
Swine and Vine Restaurant
295 Lancaster Street West
Kitchener, ON N2H 4V4
Cost: $100 before taxes and tip
The at once charming and eclectic space at 295 Lancaster Street West in Kitchener — once home to the inimitable Public Kitchen | Bar who moved a few blocks to Victoria Street — is now the domain of Swine and Vine, a unique and pleasantly unconventional food iteration of the charcuterie / meat and cheese board juggernaut that delights and satisfies as perhaps few other shareable experiences at table can.
As much though, Swine and Vine, the cheekily and somewhat irreverently named restaurant (we say “pork” but not “pig”), is also a manifestation of the owners’ Jill and Mica Sadler’s gustatory desires. Jill Sadler says their plan for the venue was to offer “small plates” at lunch and dinner in a way that was not really offered in Waterloo Region before.
“In travelling to great food cities like Toronto and Montreal, we noticed that there was always a charcuterie spot or two,” Sadler says. “It was something we liked to order and explore a bit, and we were surprised that Kitchener-Waterloo didn’t really have that.”
So there we are: there are very interesting small plates (pulled jackfruit flatbread — whaaaatt? — Peking duck, bone marrow and Scotch egg) along with a half-dozen or so charcuterie boards which range in price from $38 to $65. A board like the “OG” is more than enough for two, especially if you share a couple of appetizers: home-made duck prosciutto, bresaola, terrine, pâté and three or four cheeses, the best of which was good old Stilton. With that comes bread, warmed olives and home-made crunchy mustard.
The Octopus’s Garden is a seafood creation with ceviche, mussels, oysters and octopus along with crème fraîche, the Argentine chimichurri, trout pâté, house-cured gravalax and fish cakes. Ringo Starr, I’m sure, would be interested. Go quick: it’s likely being re-shaped on the new menu. The Lumberjack has lots of meat including home-made chorizo. The “Build-A-Board” option takes you through a few steps selecting the meats, cheeses and condiments that you want to add: bring your reading glasses; there’s a lot of information to digest on the blackboards. You might guess that The Imposter charcuterie board is vegetarian.
Executive chef Shane White, a Conestoga College culinary grad, has cooked in the area — Borealis Grille, Abe Erb, Grand Trunk Saloon — for several years and says the kitchen prepares its own duck prosciutto, gravlax and smokes their meats and cheeses, among other ingredients. He says it’s a different kind of restaurant in the region.
“It’s not a full-service rock-and-roll kind of place, so it’s a nice change. It’s new in the region. We grind and pipe all of our own sausages here, make condiments like onion marmalade, and we do veg and meat terrines and pâtés as well,” White says. “We are partnering with TWB Brewing to make some pepperettes with some of their beer.”
Salmon tartare will be appearing on the new menu: minced salmon with pickled capers, mustard seed and spices and top it with sliced avocado and chervil — oh, and caviar too. As a feature, it was very nice with some crisp bread for texture contrast and should get along well on the new regular menu.
Otherwise, S&V hits the right popular notes. There are lots of cocktails, and the wine and beer selections are solid. But it is another essential part of the Swine and Vine experience that isn’t at all like a pig with lipstick: the quaint and unique atmosphere is matched by service that is bright, friendly and professional. That’ very important.