Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tuck in to top-drawer British grub

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It's too late now to partake of the tea and scones special during the TV broadcast of the royal wedding at Gizzy's -- that took place this morning, from 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m., and dressy hats were to be de rigueur. However it's not too late to partake of some of Gizzy's more substantial British classics. There are only a few of them so far -- that part of the menu is still a work in progress -- but those few are delicious, and they are what the stars are for.

It's a rambling kind of place, with a bar off to one side, a game room off to another, a patio out front and a dining room with no particular decor. It doesn't have the cosy charm of the now-closed Brit Cafe, but there are aspects of British good humour in the knick-knacks that adorn almost every spare inch of space -- teapots, cartoons, pottery, a wacky picture of the Queen, winking. In fact, it abounds in cheerfulness, an ambience augmented by the friendly owner-cum-waitress.

That English accent belongs to Sally Mann, and it should sound familiar to one-time habitués of The Brit Cafe, since she is the former owner. Joining her here is chef Kelly Hiebert, also formerly of The Brit, and those anglophiles who have been writing me to mourn that restaurant's demise can find some of its cherished specialties here. In any case, Mann and Hiebert have been at Gizzy's only since January, and they plan to work on both the decor and the menu. Very shortly there will also be such items as sausage rolls, Cornish pasties, Scotch eggs, steak-and-kidney pie and curries, as well as a Friday all-you-can-eat fish and chips buffet. Also, possibly, a Sunday roast-beef buffet.

Breakfasts are served from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. The rest of the menu is available at both lunch and dinner, and lists such standard (unsampled) fare as burgers, sandwiches and such (most $3.95 to $6.95). But featured among the dinners is the pub grub that had lured me to Gizzy's, priced from $10.95 to $14.95, including soup or salad. All I tried were exemplary, frequently so generous some diners might want to opt for the seniors' portions, at $6.95 to $7.95. Even if they aren't seniors (yes, it's allowed).

The presentation of Toad in the Hole was impressively attractive, the tender, eggy Yorkshire pudding puffed up over a big, juicy banger, and bathed in a gravy that was light in both taste and texture (roast beef can be an alternative to the sausage, if wished). Bangers and mash also came with the same light gravy (but no mustard, although it's there for the asking).

Naturally, there are fish and chips -- one or two pieces of cod or halibut or (our choice) a single, plate-filling slice of haddock in a thin and spectacularly crisp golden batter. With them, excellent fries, a tangy tartar sauce, and a superior coleslaw in an oil-and-vinegar dressing. And, of course, malt vinegar. Also, if bought for takeout they will be wrapped in newspaper.

The cottage pie is also gargantuan -- a bed of full-flavoured ground beef with peas and carrots, moistened by a gravy that delivers a kick of Worcestershire sauce, and topped by a blanket of mashed potatoes. It didn't need the side of frozen mixed veggies but (sigh) that's one durable British tradition some of us one-time expats remember.

Liver and onions aren't specifically British, but they are also well-prepared. Other (unsampled) entrees include barbecued ribs, a New York steak, Salisbury steak, shrimp and lemon pepper chicken. They were out of soup on my visit, but since Hiebert was the original owner of Soup Pierre (now also closed), chances are they will be very good. In any case, the salad of fresh greens with orange slices and cranberries in a honey-balsamic vinaigrette was lovely.

There are only a few starters but among them is a surprising and wonderful exception to the mainly down-to-earth comfort foods -- the chili cream dumplings (eight for $6.95), plump, meaty ones in an only slightly gingery sauce dotted by bits of tomato and onion. They're a reflection of Hiebert's early experience as co-chef at La Scala, and so good one hopes he will eventually add a few more such elegant touches to the menu.

Service is friendly and helpful. There are three imported brews among the standard beers (none on tap), as well as two Mission Ridge wines. Tea comes in teabags only, and there were no house-made desserts on my visit, although there will be shortly. Scones are usually available, and dare one hope for spotted dick in the future? Or sticky toffee pudding? Or bread and butter pudding? According to Sally Mann (who does the baking), yes.

marion.warhaft@freepress.mb.ca

To see the location of this restaurant as well as others reviewed in the Winnipeg Free Press, please see the map below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 29, 2011 D3

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