Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Tentative Menu and the Service Question

We'll get to the service issue shortly, and yes, this is my little sister, and no, I can't take credit for this, her friend John in Ireland made it. But first, the menu!

So, I've spent the past month or so whittling down our menu and painstakingly pricing out each recipe. And now I'd like to hear from you. I'm hoping that we've come up with tasty snacks and dishes that will appeal to Antigonishers and our visitors, reflect our regional bounty and character, and be interesting and delicious without derailing your attempts to eat well–asolutely no nasty preservatives or additives or excessive grease to worry about! I've built it around foods that are readily available in our area, and the vegetables that have the longest growing seasons or that keep well for most of the year. We'll be changing it up and adding new things fairly regularly to reflect what's in season, and keep things interesting, but this will be the core of the menu.

The Townhouse
Brewpub and Local Eatery

Large Plates for sharing

Ploughman’s Platter
Antigonish Co’s own double Gloucester cheese, house made pickles and chutneys, some fresh fruit/veg, house made soda bread (or gluten-free crackers), and your choice of Smoked Sausage, St. Mary’s River Hot Smoked Salmon, or a wedge of our hearty Spanish potato and egg tortilla.
Or all three!

Townhouse Spread
Bombay hummus and one other seasonal dip with a pile of veggies, GF crackers, and soda bread for dipping and spreading.

NS Cheese Plate
An assortment of local cheeses­–Antigonish’s Knoydart Farm Double Gloucester, Rancher Acres’ creamy chevre, Foxhill’s sharp cheddar, That Dutchman’s cumin-spiked gouda and That Dutchman’s Dragon’s Breath Blue-Cheese–with GF crackers, house-baked soda bread and chutney.

Roasted potato wedges
Organic Maritime potatoes roasted in olive oil and ready for dunking in your choice of house made dips–like Rohini’s Tomato-Curry Sauce or Wasabi Mayo!

Smaller Plates for a light meal or combining

Giant Samosa–hot flaky pastry packed with veggies and spices, served with chutney or hot sauce

Double-Stuffed Potato–jacket potatoes filled to the brim with goat’s cheese, caramelized onions and herbs

Tortilla EspaƱol­–a hearty wedge of potato and onion omelette with chutney on the side

MacMaster’s Sausages­–2 smoked and roasted sausages, served with sauerkraut and hot mustard

Totnes Salad­–named for the town in the south of England where my sister discovered it, the Totnes salad has savoury green lentils, tender-crisp green beans, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and NS feta cheese on a bed of arugula with a Balsamic dressing

The Townhouse Salad–crisp apples, sweet grated carrots, crunchy cabbage and toasted sunflower seeds in a ginger, maple and apple-cider vinaigrette

Seasonal Green Salad-changing regularly

Roasted Potato Wedges­–with your choice of dips

Townhouse Irish Soda Bread–with cheese and chutney

The Soup Bowl

2 soups made from scratch, daily! There is always a vegetarian option, and soups could include:
NS Fish Chowder, Potato Leek Soup, Curried Red Lentil Soup, Beef with Barley and Leeks, Finnan Haddie, etc.

Daily Specials

Served with a Townhouse salad or our Lightly Pickled Veggies, specials could include:
Shepherd’s Pie, Chicken and Leek Pie, Steak and Guinness Pie, Baked Penne with Blue Cheese, Nasi Goreng, Pad Thai, etc.
Chocolate Almond Torterich and intensely chocolatey, and it just happens to be gluten-free.

Seasonal Fruit Crispserved with our decadent yogourt-cream (yogourt and whipped cream combined with maple syrup, vanilla and lemon-zest).

Guinness Gingerbreadrich and delicious, served with yogourt-cream, or vanilla ice cream and balsamic drizzle.

So, what do you think of our proposed menu? 

Is there enough choice?  or Could it be even smaller?

Anything crucial we're missing?

As you can see, it's not hugely extensive. As we will be spending a bit more on high quality, locally produced ingredients and making all our food from scratch, we need to come up with a new model for making our business work financially. We don't want to cut costs on food by ordering pre-packaged, highly-processed stuff from a large distributor, so we need to look for ways to cut costs in other areas. Labour is one of the biggest expenses in the restaurant biz, so we've tried to design our menu and figure out systems to keep things as simple and streamlined as possible, thereby keeping our staffing needs to a minimum. If we can hire fewer people, we can train them better, and pay them a little better (hopefully minimizing staff turnover, too!), and charge you a little less for food.

With this in mind, I'm asking you how important is table service? 

In Ireland, none of the traditional pubs I visited had table service. We took turns going to the bar for rounds of drinks, and if we wanted food we'd just order at the bar, and it would be brought out to us directly. I quite liked the very casual order at the bar style, there was no one hovering over your table constantly, and it meant the food needn't be outrageously expensive. 

Do you think such an approach could work here? 

Or would you rather pay a little more for table service?

Let us hear it...


  1. Hey Rose! Nice to see the serious progress happening!

    In regards to table-service, I would guess some people might be a litte surprised or put off by the lack of it. Guess it depends on the rest of the scene in there. A couple ideas: you could have table service during certain hours only (dinner time but not before or after perhaps) and/or a quick check in with the guests as they arrive to get a sense (or just ask directly) if they'll be eating lots and would prefer table service or just there for the drinks...possibly adding a small percentage to the bill for those who want the table service.

    The menu looks great. One thing that came to mind is how hearty it looks. Remember that it's winter now and the food we're all used to at this time of year is different than what you're looking for on a hot summer evening.

    On first glance:
    - I think you could benefit from more clearly identifying specific 'meal for one' options a bit more. If someone comes in by themselves (or is feeling very anti-social with their friends) they wouldn't likely order a platter, but the smaller plates perhaps don't stand out as a full meal. I suspect some folks might not want to purchase two items, but instead just want a plate that has some meat/fish, some rice or something, and some veggies. Just a thought.
    - Consider having one pasta or rice dish available every night, with a vegetarian option. (Nasi Goring and even Pad Thai may be a bit too exotic for some.)
    - A standard seasonal fish option perhaps? Though it's really expensive to buy too much and have to throw it out because it didn't sell. Still...there's the soup option at that point.
    - The soup looks great! Consider a soup & salad/sandwich variable combo thing...
    - Find something super easy to make that kids love (or will it be 18+ only?) such as grilled cheese. Happy kids = happy parents = return customers! :)
    - Balsamic on the gingerbread? Hmmm...I might ask for it without that...though I'm perhaps I would be pleasantly surprised!

    I bet it's hard work going through all the options, and everyone has such different opinions about food...but stick with your instincts and it'll be amazing!

    Love the magazine cover!

  2. hey jason,
    there's some very helpful suggestions in there, thanks! i forgot to mention that the smaller plates will have an "add a salad, lightly pickled veggies, or cup of soup option." and our summer menu will definitely change to reflect the fresh veggies available and lighter appetites. and i like the idea of partial table service, too. thanks for taking the time to think about this stuff! hope all is well in BC!

  3. This all looks AMAZING!!

    THANK YOU for having veg. options! :)

  4. I just had to share!!
    I want that samosa in my belly!! :)!/FeistyForks/status/47321732029218817

  5. Hey Ro,
    Looks great! One Irish pub standard that deserves attention, is the 'Toasted Special' It's a grilled cheese with onions, tomatoes and ham. Of course, it is always served on horrible sliced pan bread and accompanied either with some crisps or fries. Sooo delicious washed down with a pint of stout!
    And final thought, saaaay Chowda!

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