The Peasant Table has opened on Queen East, snagging the spot that was the former home of Table 17. Food influences hail from Chef and Owner’s own upbringing- Boris Babić (ex- Michael’s on Simcoe) calls it a ‘Northern Italian Gastropub’, with flecks of German influence dotting the menu as well. The menu is broken down into Brunch, Lunch and Build Your Own (there is a separate dinner menu), tapping into a share style meal for those inclined. The space is similar to its predecessor, with a slap of white paint coating the wood walls, and vintage lighting has been replaced by glitzy chandeliers instead. The overall look is slightly disjointed. A clock with a “Paris” emblazed in italics decorates one wall, intense abstract and colourful art anchor another. Whoever this Peasant is, he’s got pretty lavish taste.
The Peasant Table offers a decent selection of draught beer, mostly from Ontario, as well as imports, domestics and premium beers in a bottle. A couple classic cocktails are on hand, with Negronis, Italian influenced Bicicletta and punchy Paper Planes being standouts. The Peasant Bellini ($8) seemed like safe bet for chasing down an early lunch, and Beaus Lug Tread on tap ($7) always goes down easy.
The wine list is extensive. A few sparkling wines, and more Whites from New and Old Worlds start the list, but the Reds are the focus, with many by the glass and ample more by the bottle, with Italy, France and California taking centre stage.
Mixing and matching, tapas style meals have become almost expected in Toronto. Making your own combo of curiosities has become a habit, and here, it’s enabled by the fragmented menu. Eggy offerings like and Salmon Eggs Benny (here called Salmon Affumicato), Fritattas and somehow Mac n’ Cheese fall under the brunch umbrella or you can cherry pick from the a la carte offerings that include a side of bacon, eggs, lamb sausages, or mixed fruit (and many, many more). We honed in on the lunch menu, electing for a more curated approach.
Carpaccio ($12) is a hefty plate. Waygu beef comes slathered end to end on the plate, with a fluff of rocket and slightly pickled veg for a colourful side. While thickly cut meat is usually a good thing, the carpaccio is cut way too thick, making it chewy and tough. Black truffle crema is a waste- the crumbs of pecorino make for a better garnish.
Craving some crunch, the Insalata di Pere ($12) was a mini mound of bitter greens, walnuts and dressed in a punchy citrus vinaigrette. Pears were the focus of the salad, but the menu omitted the poaching part, and a plump, bloated, heavily clove scented pear had me digging for more greens, or a side plate to ditch the fruit out on.
Poached pears made another appearance, this time intended, as per the menu, with the Burrata ($12). Burrata cheese here is the centrepiece, with a crisp prosciutto piece jutting out as a show stopping enhancer. Dots of vincotto add a savoury element but the sad pear portion overwhelmed the dish. Had I known I was going back to back with this poached fruit I would have been more conservative in my 5-to-10 a day choices.
A joyous departure from pears altogether brought The Meat Lovers Sandwich ($15) with polenta fries our way. A fluffy milk bun acts as a sponge for braised meats, which after our server inquired in the kitchen, we discovered were steak, rabbit, smoked ribs and pork belly. Almost like a gourmet sloppy joe, the meats come blanketed in provolone cheese and crowned with a runny sunny-side up egg. Rustic, flavourful and certainly Italian, the kitchen found its voice on this plate. The polenta fries were crispy and addictive.
The Peasant Table has some kinks to work out- not shocking considering it’s only been open since mid-December. Channel those German-Italian roots and replicate the things you’re good at. More braised meats and less poached anything, please.