Food. Life. Travel

Brasserie Kensington (Big Taste 2018): Review

Brasserie Kensington is a neighborhood staple in this vibrant community. The concept of Brasserie Kensington is to serve simple, hearty, comfort food. They are a Canadian Brasserie inspired by local ingredients.

Brasserie Kensington is all about simpicity, bold flavors, old world vs. new world wines and crafted beers. The chef/owner wanted to bring a European Brasserie to Calgary!

As earnest as their story sounds, our experience at Brasserie Kensington for their Big Taste Menu, was underwhelming and unsatisfying. A far cry from the bold flavours and hearty comfort food, they espoused.

The 411:

  • Canadian inspired brasserie
  • Bringing a European feel to a local setting
  • Brunch, Lunch and Evening dining
  • Local ingredients with the goal of serving simple, hearty, comfort food

First Impressions

We chose Brasserie as we had never tried the restaurant before. We found their Big Taste menu to be very appealing and we figured it would be a great way to experience the best of what the restaurant had to offer. I especially liked their family-style sharing concept.

Prior to walking in, I expected to be enchanted by a cozy and charming setting, with French-inspired vibes. In reality, the interior decor reminded me of the local pubs in Calgary (like the Bear and Kilt). To be fair, I was unaware that the restaurant was a Canadian take on a brasserie. Thus, to their credit, the interior design did justice in capturing that ambiance.

The infamous cat-shaped wine bottle

We brought in our own bottle of wine since they feature free corkage on Wednesdays. We specifically chose an an eccentric bottle (a bright pink cat-shaped bottle), to serve as a conversation piece, and spark some conversation between us and our server. However, both servers (one of whom I later learned is the owner), appeared to be unenthused and blase towards the bottle. They only remarked that they had “never opened one of these before,” and ended the conversation at that.  So much for a trying to spark camaraderie!

Unfortunately, as the night continued, our service was poor and extremely unpleasant, including when one of the owners came to “talk to us” at the end of our meal. I should have known that people who aren’t at least mildly intrigued by a cat-shaped wine bottles are the type of people who are missing a certain je ne sais quoi in their lives!

Food & Drink

Food: 

We sampled their $28 (per person), Big Taste Menu. Although they advocate for family-style sharing plates across their entire menu, including their Big Taste menu, you are still required to order an individual menu per person. There is a high-level of irony in preaching sharing plates while demanding that your patrons order individual meals. However, it is my understanding that full table participation is required at most Big Taste restaurants, so although I do not agree with the concept, I won’t argue against it.

Since we were required to order our own Big Taste meal, we sampled the following dishes:

COURSE 1

Peasant Duck Broth Soup & Brasserie Patatas Bravas

The duck broth soup was lukewarm. The temperature was an exact match to dishwater, and the taste was the same. The soup was so undersalted and the only flavour came from the beans. The patatas were tasty, if not a bit underwhelming. I loved that they were served piping hot (indicating their freshness), but to me, it was the same standard as McCain wedges. In all honesty, that isn’t a bad thing. I like McCain wedges!

Duck broth soup and patatas bravas

COURSE 2

Beef Bourguignon & spinach saptzle & Local breaded chicken cutlet with herb butter sauce, grilled lemon & frisee salad

To compensate for the lack of salt in the soup, it appears that the chefs overcompensated when it came to the bourguignon. While the beef was tender and the spinach saptzle tasty, the dish was so oversalted that it overpowered the rest of the flavours. We left half the dish unfinished. 

The chicken cutlet appeared promising. The chicken itself was tender and moist, but the breading was too greasy. There was so much butter that it engulfed the simplicity of the chicken, leaving a soggy and heavy taste in your mouth. Unfortunately, that dish was also left untouched. 

                                                               Beef bourguignon

                                                         Chicken Cutlet

COURSE 3

Baked Alaska with Italian meringue & house made coffee ice-cream & Chocolate waffles with white chocolate sauce & confit apple

No complaints here. (Sadly) dessert was the best part of our meal. The baked Alaska and chocolate waffles were the saving grace of this entire experience. Dessert should be a finishing piece, not a lifeline for a meal. And this is coming from someone who adores dessert!

Chocolate waffles and Baked Alaska

Drinks

Although we brought our own bottle, we indulged in a complimentary glass of Evolve Vineyards 2015 Gewurztraminer bought by an incredibly sweet server (Tess!), who was the only shining light to this dismal night out.

Because this Gewurztraminer comes from B.C., the wine is more off-dry (and surprisingly strong), compared to their German counterparts (which are sweeter and less strong). This glass of wine actually paired very well with our dessert.

My Opinion:

The big taste menu for Brasserie Kensington had potential but ultimately missed the mark. While I could overlook dismal service for good food (or vice versa), it appears that Brasserie lacked both.

Our server was sullen, but the owners were even worse. While I was hesitant to voice my concerns with our original server (for fear that her head would explode with the thought of practicing some empathy), I had high hopes that the owners would take our comments in a better manner.

Instead, the owner who came to talk to us was aloof and haughty as well.  When she finally came to our table, she asked us how we were liking our dessert. When I responded that it was very tasty, she snidely remarked: “Well I am glad you at least found one dish you liked.”

Apparently, she has a hard time accepting constructive criticism. That and she ignorantly assumed two young girls were incapable of having a taste palette refined enough to comment on her restaurant’s food. To that I only say, you do not need to be a world traveler or a restaurant critic to notice when the food is undersalted, oversalted and a bit too greasy.

As mentioned before, I really enjoyed the dessert (the best part), but I had very high hopes for the rest of the dishes. I have heard (and read) nothing but great reviews about Brasserie Kensington, so it is very sad to have experienced the opposite.

Value for your Moolah

For the serving size, $28.00 for the entire menu was a fair price. My only caveat is that each person had to purchase their own Big Taste meal, despite being advertised as family sharing style. Thus, I found $60.00 for the entire meal to be very expensive, especially for the quality of dishes served. However, I did enjoy the dessert and the patatas bravas.

As for the drinks, the cocktails, wines, and beers are reasonably priced and are comparable to everywhere else.

The Consensus: 1/5

Brasserie Kensington is a great concept in theory, but based on our experience, it did not translate into reality. I could have overlooked the indifferent service if the food was good (or vice versa), but neither happened. Both the food and service left a lot to be desired.

I firmly believe that a little kindness (and empathy), can go a long way for Brasserie. I understand the challenges of running a restaurant, but I also believe that good food and service are key to success. When customers have concerns, I shouldn’t feel like I am walking on eggshells or I am being a nuisance.

I am ready to pay good (hard-earned) money in return for excellent food and service (okay, I can even handle decent service). However, it is upsetting and disheartening when expectations are not met, and you are made to feel like you are in the wrong.

Update (March 8, 2018): The owner of Brasserie Kensington (Jaqueline) called me to follow up with my experience. She apologized and explained that her earlier comment was not meant to be sarcastic, but rather genuine. She noted that she took my concerns (regarding the food) seriously, and passed them along to the chefs. In fact, the chefs noted that the duck broth soup was indeed underseasoned. She hopes that I will give the restaurant another try, and perhaps I will! 

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