Even though I’m a born New York girl, I’ve never fully grown accustomed to the weather. I’m used to the snow and the wind chill, but that doesn’t mean I’m good at handling it. So, you can bet your sweet booty that this recent round of Rochester sunshine and rainbows had me desperately in search of a warm, hearty meal to settle my shivering bones. Thus, this week I paid homage to a local favorite and visited the British restaurant-and-pub The Old Toad.
The interior is divided into two sections: the bright, posh restaurant area at the front, and the dark, old-style pub at the back. Trusty food-review sidekick Ryan and I opted for the pub section. The traditional dark wood style of the bar ties together the pub aesthetic beautifully.
To start out, we ordered a scotch egg. It did not disappoint. I’ll cover each layer from inside to out. The egg was cooked just right, not overboiled. The sausage I liked very much. Tender and moist with a smoky, peppery flavor. And the fried coating was crispy with a nice coarse texture.
Entree part one of three was the shepherd’s pie. This shepherd’s pie was everything I could hope for: creamy, saucy, warm, flavorful, tender ground lamb, and a hearty mash on top. I loved the touch of broiled cheese on the potatoes, which brought a salty cheesiness to the party.
Speaking of salty cheesiness, I interrupt this tale of old-school pub fare to introduce another winner from The Old Toad: the three-cheese grilled cheese. This was not your average grilled cheese. No, this one featured thick-cut rye bread and a tangy cheese mixture. The bread was toasted to perfection, with a buttery exterior and a warm, fluffy interior. The combination of that buttery rye with the sharp, creamy cheese was surprisingly delightful.
Now, back to the classics with fish and chips. Like the shepherd’s pie, this was another utter satisfaction. The fish had a light and airy fried coat — crisp with just the proper bit of chew. I also enjoyed the side portion of mushy peas. For those of you unacquainted with mushy peas, think mashed potatoes, but instead of potatoes… peas. Like mashed potatoes, mushy peas come in many different forms. I personally prefer a creamier, silkier mash. This one was drier and chunkier. Also, there was a strong fresh flavor, which I thought to be mint. It was a pleasant surprise.
Speaking of side dishes, every entree we ordered came with a side of chips (well, “French fries” on this side of the pond). Considering we received three portions and finished nearly every chip, I’d say we weren’t repulsed. The chips were thick-cut with an amazing fry job — silky in the middle with a thin, ultra-crunchy exterior. They made that perfect “cccssshhh” sound when we bit into them. I know you know what I mean.
Of course, I could whip out my foodie knowledge and nitpick this stuff on technicalities, but that’s not the place’s point. Pub food isn’t about complexity or culinary perfection. It’s about some good old-fashioned comfort. And The Old Toad definitely comforted me and my soul on one of those -14 wind chill days when I question why on Earth I decided to move further upstate for school.