Britain is not known for fine cuisine. Its flavorless and often formless fodder pales in comparison to its meal-time-Mecca of a neighbor – Paris. Despite its sub-par reputation, I decided to venture out on a particularly dreary evening and sample the British fare served at The Old Toad.

Seventeen years after it’s opening, The Old Toad’s pub-like atmosphere still manages to draw a large crowd. My dining partner and I arrived at 8 p.m. as the Toad was just starting to get busy. The restaurant was warm and inviting. Its booth-style seating provides ample space for big groups, yet it still feels intimate. The walls are adorned with sketches of Mr. Toad from the well-known British novel “The Wind in the Willows.” The crowd was mostly 20-somethings enjoying a beer with friends on a rainy Monday evening.

We had been sitting for 10 minutes before we even got a glance from the wait staff. A friendly-looking waitress came over to our table a few minutes later and offered us menus before disappearing for another 15 minutes, giving us plenty of time to peruse the menu.

The Old Toad’s menu combines traditional British entres, modern pub food and, of course, a wide selection of beers, including The Old Toad’s custom brews. Their varied sandwich options are all named after London underground stations. The list of entres includes time-honored favorites, such as fish and chips and Yorkshire pudding. Most of the entres and sandwiches are served with a side of “British Chips,” which can best be translated as slightly soggy French fries.

When our waitress finally reappeared, she asked what we would like and it was only then that I noticed she had a British accent. I later found out that The Old Toad sponsors British university students, giving them the experience of living and working in the United States while contributing to the authentic atmosphere of the restaurant.

I ordered the Shepherd’s Pie, described as “a traditional dish of ground beef and garden vegetables in rich beef gravy, topped with creamy mashed potatoes, melted cheddar cheese and served with British Chips and garden peas.”

I was incredibly hungry and anxiously awaited my dinner, and waited, and then waited some more. The food was delivered after waiting nearly an hour, which was surprising since it appeared that no one in the restaurant had ordered anything but beer.

The rich meal was slightly more flavorful than other British food I’ve sampled. It was certainly comforting and filling on such a cold evening, but I contribute much of my enthusiasm to the sense of relief I felt in finally receiving my dinner and suppressing my hunger, which had become increasingly noticeable during the wait.

Fischer is a member of the class of 2008.



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