I visited London Local the day Edmonton made headlines for being colder than both the North and the South Pole.
The temperature was a mind and body-numbing –37 C with the wind chill and yet Chef Lindsay Porter's new restaurant was doing a booming business.
Maybe these people, having been cooped up with relatives too long during the holidays, needed a change of scenery.
Maybe they couldn't stomach the thought of one more turkey-based meal. Or, maybe, being winter-hardy Edmontonians, they just figured there was no better time to venture out for some crispy eel and a pint of Innis & Gunn.
Whatever the reason, the cozy gastropub located at 2307 Ellwood Drive SW had a lovely, lively, post-Christmas vibe.
British comfort food
The air was heavy with the scent of roasted, braised and simmered meats, and the tall, padded chairs in front of the bar beckoned for bodies to fill the last remaining seats.
Porter is serving the comfort food of her upbringing. The dishes are of British origin with a smattering of those from Ireland, Scotland and Wales: black pudding, Scotch egg, sausage rolls, fish and chips, Welsh rarebit, beef cheek pie and a brisket burger that will make you forget every other burger you've had to date.
If you're seeking something light for dinner, your only option may be the cucumber and charred cabbage salad with pumpkin seeds.
For lunch, those wanting something that's neither braised, fried, battered or loaded with cheese, can opt for the beet and kale salad, or a seafood dish of poached salmon and shrimp.
But if it's seafood you're after, consider the fish and chips, a one- or two-piece serving of Icelandic cod cloaked in a golden, crispy batter set atop a mound of twice-cooked French fries and served with house-made ketchup and an anchovy-dill tartar sauce. It is filling and at $24 for two pieces, a palatable sum for fresh cod.
Porter's Scotch egg, a house blend of fried sage and fennel sausage surrounding a medium soft yolk, is the perfect snack or to-go food. It is as tasty the next morning as it is when it comes fresh from the kitchen.
The brisket burger is so wonderful that I was tempted the next day to return for seconds. Finally — a burger made from beef that is ground in-house, seasoned with restraint, and cooked to medium so that the juices flow and the flavours remain determinable.
As difficult as it will be, save room for the sticky toffee pudding or the treacle or the trifle. The sweets will remain something to try on my next visit, which I look forward to. Judging by all that I tried, it is safe to assume any would be a sound choice.
The only downside to this south side gem is that it's tucked away in an enclave of businesses without much in the way to herald its existence. Perhaps Porter and her business partner, Evonne Li, might want to hire a town crier to parade up and down Ellwood Drive, shouting, "Hear ye, hear ye, London Local is open for business!"