Brunch Feast @ Skin + Bones = PHENOMENAL! (Leslieville/Queen East)

 

I run a food group and as the creator of this group I am responsible for finding restaurants for my members. There is a lot of pressure on me to find good restaurants because Toronto is 1) inundated with them; 2) just because one person loves the restaurant does not mean that everyone else will; 3) people trust my judgment as a food lover to know the difference between quality and bullshit; 4) if they hate my choice, I will hear about it; 5) I set very high expectations on myself and as a result I read too many reviews, look at too many restaurant photos, and study too menus before I make 1 reservation. 

After a lot of back-and-forth (in my head), I decided to make a brunch reservation at Skin + Bones. And the odd thing is that I can’t really tell you why. They had few pictures of their brunch offerings online; the prices are not super cheap; and okay yes — the reviews are good — but there are few reviews on their brunch menu; most people have reviewed their dinner menu. Yet, my gut told me to go for it. So I did.

I contacted Lisa Clarke by e-mail about my interest in booking a reservation and she quickly got back to me. This was an awesome first start because I am really not a fan of the telephone (once upon a time I used to work as a clinical counselor and I had to speak to clients on the phone—had enough phone interaction to last me a life time!) Lisa stated that for groups of 8 or more we had to go with their Brunch Feasting Menu. Further, all the menu items were going to be served on boards and platters, shared by the whole table. The menu would cost $25/ adult plus $3 if we wanted to add the Ploughman’s Buffet.

This is how it works:

BRUNCH ENTREES (choose 3 for the table)

Buttermilk Pancakes (fruit preserve, chantilly cream, maple)

Pulled Porchetta Benedict (poached eggs, hollandaise, housemade English muffin)

Summer Vegetables & Poached Eggs (lentils du puy, green salad)

Buttermilk Fried Chicken (potato salad, ranch mayo)

Corned Beef Hash (potato, mushroom, fried egg)

Pork & Chickpea Ragu (poached egg)

SIDES (all included)

Crispy Fried Potatoes

Smoked Bacon (thick cut)

Toasted Focaccia

TABLESIDE PLOUGHMAN’S BUFFET (optional course – add $3 per person) *full table participation required

Cheese (assortment of artisanal cheeses)

Charcuterie (assortment of salamis, pickles, mustards)

House Made Pastries (assortment of biscuits, buns, cakes)

Pantry (housemade granola, poached fruit, housemade fruit preserves)

So how was it?

Phenomenal! I was worried that there would not be enough food. Yes, I know that the Ploughman’s Buffet was all-you-can-eat, but from the pictures I had seen online, it did not seem like there were a lot of options. Wrong!

Here is the breakdown of the awesomeness (ok, cheesy—but it was awesome!):

  • The service was impeccable. They never let our coffee or water reach the 25% mark. They were always on point refilling our drinks. I forgot how nice it feels to not have to chase staff down for more coffee or water.
  • Our table did not lack food. They did not want any of us to get up and walk over to the buffet table (which at first annoyed me to be honest), but they made sure they brought it all to us in platters to pass around among us. The staff would come around and ask, “is there anything else you would like me to get for you? Would you like more cold cuts? I see you are low on cheddar, would you like some more?”
  • We were not rushed. I thought we would have a limited time with the buffet before we got our hot dishes, but no, they let us lead and choose the pace. So we did what most people want to do when they are having brunch on a Sunday afternoon—have a chill leisurely experience with friends while enjoying good food. In this case, an array of delicious food options.
  • The food options seemed endless. Specially when you discovered that certain cheeses went great with certain jams. I am certain I annoyed my guests with all my experimentation, but seriously, after I shoved some of my experiments in their mouths, they agreed! It was good!
  • Before the mains came out, the staff asked what they could take away. This was huge for me because I hate when we are still eating, and plates are removed without permission or inquiry. This happens a lot when it is all-you-can-eat. Not here. I got to hold on to some cheese and the bread pudding—aww that sinfully good bread pudding (I took a piece home with me. Shhh don’t tell anyone).
  • Holy mother of God! The mains! They weren’t kidding when they called it a FEAST! We did not know where to put the platters! We had to make “Tetris-like” moves to make it all fit.
  • Fried chicken->moist, tender, well-balanced spices, crispy exterior, a little too fatty in some parts, but then that is what some of my guests loved about it. Overall, it was pretty damn good.
  • Potato salad-> not many people had it because it was under the chicken, which was great for me because I took it home as left-overs and I just ate it for dinner. It was delicious. I specially liked the dill.
  • Pancakes-> Lisa was not kidding when she said that they make some of the best pancakes in Toronto. The pancakes were served with Chantilly cream, strawberries and butter. Heavenly.
  • Pulled Porchetta eggs Benny-> someone remarked on how perfect the Hollandaise sauce was. The only flaw was that I thought the pork needed a little bit more seasoning.
  • Bacon-> someone stated that it was the best bacon they have ever had. Hard to disagree.
  • Crispy potatoes-> I ate a whole bowl (there were several thank God!). No joke. Crispy exterior with a fluffy interior and homemade ketchup. Oh yeah, I devoured them.
  • Ploughman’s Buffet-> BEST USE OF A TABLE EVER! I can’t say a single negative thing about it. Amazing cheese options. The chorizo was perfectly cut and the plate had to be physically removed from my reach because I simply could not stop eating it! The bread…. honestly, I can go on and on about the great quality and deliciousness of it all. Simplicity at its best.

ADDENDUM: Returned to Skin+Bones for brunch with friends, but this time we did not do the feast, but instead we ordered from the menu. This is how the experience differed…

1. Your meal does not come with a side. For example, my pancakes did not come with a side of potatoes or a salad. I am used to always having a side with my brunch dish.

2. The Ploughman’s buffet will change for every brunch. I was really looking forward to the bread pudding that they had the last time I was there, and this time it was not available.

3. The Ploughman’s buffet is no longer $3 extra. In less than two weeks they changed the price from $3 to $5. However, if you do not add the Ploughman’s buffet, I really doubt that you will get full on just the main. For example, I had two plates from the Ploughman buffet, then I got my pancakes, and still went back for another plate from the Ploughman’s table because I was still hungry–keep in mind that the Ploughman’s table plates are tiny. And no, I don’t have a huge appetite.

4. I love potatoes for breakfast, and a side of potatoes is $6!

Sure, the food is still very good, and the service is great, but I doubt I will be returning for their regular brunch as each element will add up to an amount of money I rarely would pay for a brunch.

Breakdown:

$12 for pancakes (one of 2 cheapest items on their menu)

$6 for potatoes

$3 for coffee

$5 for the Ploughman’s table

________________________

$26 before taxes and tip  (Subtotal)

$33.28 with tax and tip (if you were tipping 15%)

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