For a Sunday evening, the Old Toad was surprisingly packed. Diners whose ages seemed to range from 18 to 80 conversed noisily in an atmosphere that is the closest thing you’ll ever find to an actual British pub here in Rochester. In an attempt to further a sense of authenticity, all of the Old Toad’s bartenders and waiters are actually British exchange students— meaning that, more likely than not, your waiter will say the phrase “bangers and mash” with the appropriate accent.
There were many different seating arrangements; from wooden tables to large booths and many different nooks and crannies that allow for as much or as little privacy as you want.
Most of the food is traditional British fare, which is quite hard to come by in Rochester. The fact that the menu lists a specific beer selection that was tailored to every single menu item is enough to make any beer aficionado ecstatic.
I knew it would be a disgrace to the island across the pond if I did not order a basket of chips as an appetizer. Chips, for all you Yanks out there, are essentially thick cut French fries (but don’t tell anyone I said so). Along with the chips I ordered the Scotch eggs, which I’d never had before, because they seemed traditionally British and quite yummy.
Now comes the segment in which I introduce this establishment’s mortal flaw: the wait time. It must have taken around 20 minutes for the appetizers to arrive at the table, but this at least ensured that I was ravenous by the time they arrived.
The appetizers themselves were wonderful. The chips were a perfect mixture of crunchy and soft and tasted much more of actual, fresh potatoes than the oil in which they were cooked.
I was also delighted when the server brought us a basket of condiments, which included malt vinegar, to add to the food. There truly is nothing like the crunch of a good chip with the sweet tang of malt vinegar.
The Scotch egg was wonderful as well. For those who are new to this ingenious creation, as I was, it is essentially a hardboiled egg that is wrapped in sausage, breaded and then deep fried.
The result is truly greater than the sum of its parts. The outside is crunchy and spice filled and the inside is a perfectly-cooked, warm, fatty hardboiled egg. The egg also came with a side of what tasted like homemade mayonnaise. It was rich and tangy and went perfectly with the egg itself. Although by the end of this appetizer I could have sworn that I felt my arteries getting smaller, I was truly content.
The problem with slow service at the Old Toad reared its ugly head after the appetizer. Somehow, after a whole basket of chips and a Scotch egg, I was still hungry. My two guests and I waited for another 25-30 minutes for the actual meal to come.
I watched sadly as those around us were served their plates of meaty, potatoey goodness until finally our entrees arrived. I had ordered bangers and mash, which were described on the menu as, “Three Cumberland sausage links served atop creamy mashed potatoes with fried onions, garden peas, gravy.” I figured that there was nothing that could go wrong with this dish, and I was right.
The sausages were giant hunks of mildly spiced but satisfied meat that were outshined by the creamy but not liquefied mashed potatoes. This place really knows its tubers. The fried onions were cooked almost to the point of caramelization, giving the whole dish a nice sweet undertone. This dish is the very definition of comfort food.
Despite the wait time, I really enjoyed my meal at the Old Toad. I am usually not one to complain about long wait times, and I generally don’t mind relaxing and talking with whomever I happen to be with as I wait for my food, but antsy people or those in a hurry should be warned- — this is not a place for a quick meal.
I would suggest bringing a large group of friends, ordering a round of beers (that go with your entrée, of course) and spending a laid back evening in a place that it looks like it could have been frequented by Sherlock Holmes.
Ford is a member of the class of 2013.