Saturday, 30 August 2014

Sláinte! The Local Gastropub

Most of my family has been away in our birthplace, Scotland, this summer. I have been home and actually spending quite a bit of time writing travel articles about Argyll, my particular part of that beautiful land, for an about to launch website called Treksavvy. So I was more than due for a wee taste of home when I dropped into the Local Gastropub with my husband and son.

We arrived just before 5:00 pm on a warm summery day, expecting to find a Friday crowd taking up every table, but we were just ahead of the rush it seems and had no trouble finding a cosy booth for three. The windows were flung open to allow the breeze in, and from our booth we could see the more colourful Barrie-ites pass by on the sidewalk. The Gastropub prides itself on its wide selection of local craft beers so my husband ordered a glass of the very light sounding Flying Monkeys Anti Gravity beer. Produced just down the street, you can't get much more local than that!

Me, well I've been on a cider kick for many years now, actually since I was an apprentice chef at an inn in Scotland back in 1984. All the staff were allowed a drink after work, right down to the 15 year old Irish girl washing the pots. I always got a half pint of the sweet cider on tap. Until recently, your choices here in Ontario were few. Strongbow was more or less it and your flavour choices were zero. I was cheered by a recent trip to the local Liquor Store where I found umpteen brands, (Somersby, Molson Canadian, Alexander Keith, Thornbury and Rekorderlig) and some cool flavours like blackberry and wild berry. This Local had a new one for me to try - Waupoos. A product of Picton, Ontario, this cider was light, sweet and delicious! Their website shows a peach one - whoa baby!

The Local Gastropub has a neat, eclectic menu. It's an offering of all things fresh, local, fun, flavourful with a few tastes of the auld country tossed in and given a Gastropub twist. Where else can you get haggis lollipops with orange marmalade bbq sauce or an ecclefechan butter tart mess? Other more familiar faves with expat Scots are cod and chips with house made spicy ketchup and tartar sauce, or the ploughman's salad (sometimes known as a shepherd's lunch in Scotland). My husband and I ordered the cod and chips. Our son opted for the plainest poutine on the menu.

The poutine arrived in a very hot little cast iron skillet. It was topped with asiago cheese, a neat variation, and piping gravy. The fries were golden and crispy, and the kid enjoyed the unusual poutine with the almost parmesan-y flavour - it all disappeared anyway!

Our fish and chips was presented almost traditionally styled - there was a newspaper below, but perhaps health reasons dictate that a food safe liner be placed on top of that. Too bad. How I love a takeway fish supper from a real chippy wrapped in newspaper! The steam from the hot food gets trapped and everything goes just a little bit mushy. That may sound awful to the uninitiated, but it's a good memory for me.

The Local's cod and chips was very good, I must say. The batter was quite light and crisp. The fish was nice and the tartar sauce was the perfect accompaniment.  The spicy ketchup wasn't overly hot at all, in fact I'm sure I detected a sweetness in it. Molasses? Honey? I should have asked. Great fresh cut fries.

Our server offered us dessert and we almost never order any. But four simple words reeled us in - deep fried Mars Bar. In our most recent travels in Scotland, our son was on a mission to try this legendary confection, but somehow it never happened. What is it about the Scots and deep frying? I recall my first trip back after our immigration to Canada. I was 17 years old and we stopped for lunch in a small west coast fishing village. I was looking for something sort of Canadian to eat and ordered a hamburger. Well, didn't the darn thing come battered and deep fried! It wouldn't have been so bad if the frying oil didn't taste strongly of all the fish they mostly fried there. I am happy to report that the deep fried Mars Bar at the Local Gastropub was nothing like that culinary disappointment of 1981, and was an absolute dream. Inside the (not fishy!) batter was the creamiest melted chocolate bar ever, served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and garnished with a fresh strawberry. Mmmmmm.

We only had an hour there, in early evening, but I think this must be a beehive of fun later on when the locals who frequent this local Local come out and really get going. I can imagine the laughter and live music pouring through the open windows. I can hear the debates - Rangers or Celtic, Leafs or Habs? I must give it a try some night. It looks like a comfortable spot to hoist a pint. Located at 27 Dunlop St. W., Barrie.

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