REDS WINE TAVERN has gone through a few changes in the course of the past year or so. First a complete overhaul from being Reds Bistro & Wine Bar, replacing its white linen table cloths with a modern tavern look and Dustin Gallagher heading up the kitchen. Since his departure, Michael Hunter has been running the show.
REDS 2.0 is definitely a much more fun place to unwind – no doubt a lot of high-strung investment bankers and white collars end up there after work to grab a drink and destress. The shuffleboard serves as a good distraction for those up for a little healthy competition. The tall windows which look out onto the covered patio let in a lot of natural lighting but my favourite displays are the lighting fixtures made from repurposed wine bottles and wine glasses, and the display cases of vintage flasks and Barbie dolls in the hallway leading to the washrooms.
The cocktail menu features classic favourites such as a stiff Old Fashioned and a varied selection of wines (both domestic and international). The Ginger Schnapp (pictured right) is my personal favourite – a vodka-based cocktail with apple and cranberry juice and peach schnapps topped off with ginger beer and plum bitters. An uber refreshing drink for a summer day.
The menu is composed of sharing plates as well as a healthy selection of seafood featuring catches of the day, mussels and the decadent lobster and avocado Cobb salad. The salad is topped with a perfectly poached 63 degree egg with generous chunks of lobster meat, bacon and croutons. With all its rich ingredients, the light dressing is just perfect.
The Beef Tartar gets a little bit of added attention as it is mixed table-side by your server to your selected degree of spiciness (we were perfectly content with a level 4).
The Sauvignon Blanc Braised Mussels are simple but bursting of pure, sweet flavour from the natural juices of the mussels spruced up with some herbes de provence, shallots and tomato + garlic confit. The crostini are buttery and crisp – leave them in a little longer to really soak up the juices. It’s good to know that REDS knows their cookware too – it’s served in a Staub mussel pot.
We also grab the Cheeseburger, with a duo of Morbier and Fontina, house made ketchup (which I don’t usually like, but this one is quite good), mustard wedged between an eggy brioche bun with a side of house made pickles and fries.
Veering away from the more traditional American/British fare is a Pork Vindaloo daal, Basmati and chopped salad with a ginger vinaigrette. I prefer naan as my choice of carb for its absorption factor! Tender pieces of pork with just the right amount of heat – this, I’m told, is a REDS favourite.
We manage to leave some room for dessert – and when the Flourless (Dark) Chocolate Cake arrives at the table, I am glad we did. Not starchy or dry like your usual flourless chocolate cakes, the texture was closer to a mousse and topped with candied pistachios and vanilla tuille. Opt out of the tuille and it is a indulgent gluten-free option. I don’t know anyone who would say no. This also happens to be chef Hunter’s favourite dessert.