July 6, 2020

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Savoury smoke

Newly renovated Wood Tavern makes the most out of its wood-burning oven and sexy surroundings

Opinion

The Wood Tavern, part of an extensive renovation of the Norwood Hotel in St. Boniface, is the dark, handsome counterpart to the white and bright Pauline (which is right next door and was reviewed in last week’s Uptown). It’s also the night owl to Pauline’s morning lark.

Restaurant review

The Wood Tavern

112 Marion St.

204-235-6003; thewoodtavern.com

Go for: upscale pub grub in a rich, handsome room

Best bet: something smoked or fire-grilled or coal-roasted

The Wood Tavern

112 Marion St.

204-235-6003; thewoodtavern.com

Go for: upscale pub grub in a rich, handsome room

Best bet: something smoked or fire-grilled or coal-roasted

Mains: $15-28; small plates: $9-16

Sunday-Monday: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday: 11 a.m.-midnight; Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m.-1 a.m.

Noise level: moderate to loud

Wheelchair accessible: yes

Licensed: yes

Reservations: yes, recommended

★★★1/2 out of five

On the weekend, there’s a brunch menu that overlaps with Pauline, but the Wood heads far into the evenings with ambitious fare – some inspired, some a little inconsistent — for lunch and supper, as well as drinks and late-night bar snacks.

The menu starts with elevated pub grub — burgers, ribs and wings, yes, but also some intriguing shared small plates and entrees that channel a Canadiana campfire feel.

The Andouille sausage

The Andouille sausage

The space is great, giving off a sexy nocturnal vibe, with rich woods, burnished brass fittings, caramel-coloured chairs and plushly upholstered banquettes. Because this is a lounge, there are also many, many TV screens, though they were — thankfully — silent during the dining hour.

Service is casual and warm. There’s also actual warmth coming from the big wood-burning oven that bridges the area between the Wood and Pauline, and many of the dishes coming out of the kitchen have a smoked or fire-grilled or charred or coal-roasted dimension. Even cocktails get in on the act, with smoked lime adding depth to a nicely balanced margarita, for example.

The Norwood burger

The Norwood burger

Cauliflower, smoked and fire-grilled, has a lovely complexity, though the accompanying hummus was a bit claggy. Calamari is crisp and resolutely spicy and served with a smoked garlic aioli.

A very tasty Tavern burger is ground in-house and griddled, for juicy results, and served on a broad brioche bun. Fish and chips are also good, with flaky chunks of cod and darkly crisp batter. Wings are meaty and tender and the honey garlic option was right in the sticky, yet crispy, zone.

There are inconsistencies. Skinny fries were very good one day and floppy on another. Caesar salad was promising but quickly became sad and soggy: the dressing good, but there was just too much of it.

Lamb cassoulet, presented in an individual cast iron pan, was good but unexpected. I think of cassoulet as peasant food — basically beans with meat — and this is more meat with beans. That’s not neccesarily bad when the meat is beer-braised fork-tender lamb shank, but the accompanying white beans felt like a garnish.

Executive chef Brian Roloff turns the sausages on the wood-fired grill at the Wood Tavern.

Executive chef Brian Roloff turns the sausages on the wood-fired grill at the Wood Tavern.

Desserts include a homey but not heavy carrot cake with cream cheese icing that’s finished with a flourish of dark spun sugar and a nice tiramisu that’s layered into a Mason jar. When it comes to dessert trends, I admit I am an absolute sucker for spun sugar, but please, please, stop putting desserts in Mason jars. They’re awkward.

There are nine local beers on tap. Some alluring craft cocktails continue the campfire theme, getting fired-up with smoke-inflected additions, while others include local ingredients such as Sheepdog cold-brew coffee and Downtown Neighbourhood honey syrup.

And if you’re marking Dry January, the Wood has you covered with some thoughtful zero-alcohol mocktails.

alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca

Mikaela MacKenzie

Mikaela MacKenzie
Photojournalist

Mikaela MacKenzie loves meeting people, experiencing new things, and learning something every day. That's what drove her to pursue a career as a visual journalist — photographers get a hands-on, boots-on-the-ground look at the world.

Read full biography

Alison Gillmor

Alison Gillmor
Writer

Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.

Read full biography

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