Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Basking in the Local Glow at The Sun Room Restaurant!

Happy First Anniversary to The Sun Room Restaurant!
Now, some long-time residents of Stratford must be puzzled: 
"But... The Sun Room's been around for much longer than a year, hasn't it?!?"

Yes and no. 

Yes, The Sun Room has indeed been operating in Stratford for many years, and has long been a favourite of visitors and locals alike. 

But it's only been over the past year, under its new ownership, that it has truly come into its own as one of the best spots in town to experience local cuisine elevated to the heliosphere. 

Last night, I basked in the local sunlit glory that is The Sun Room today. Accompanying me at dinner, to my Sunny Delight, were: my wife Lisa; my brother-in-blog and good friend Matty Ian; and none other than the owner of The Sun Room Restaurant herself, the visionary Carly Flanagan! 
All three of my dining partners were in fact long-time friends from school days in Stratford. Lisa and Matty (pictured above) used to make-believe they were Princess Di and Prince Charles back in the day on Mornington Street in 1981 (luckily, they've both fared much better!). Carly, Lisa and Matty all attended Stratford Central High School together in the '90s. So as soon as we sat down, I was immediately absorbed in the comfortably familiar vibe shared by these three great friends as we celebrated together the first birthday of today's Sun Room.

Matty Ian actually wrote about the redesign of the new Sun Room in one of his blog posts from earlier this year. At that time, he graciously refrained from reviewing the food, leaving that job for me: "Now I won't go into menu details as I will leave that up to 'The Local-Come-Lately' Stratford food blogger to review." I won't go into the design details either, but I will tell you that the environment in The Sun Room is welcoming and comfortable yet stylishly refined. This is doubtlessly the tone intended by the [re]designer, Carly's husband Ryan Flanagan, a talented set-creator for the Stratford Festival (if you liked the eye candy at this year's production of Peter Pan... Ryan did that).
But now let's talk about the redesign of the Sun Room's menu. Carly (pictured above with a stellar breaded  C'est Bon goat cheese and prosciutto over arugula starter) took over the George Street restaurant after studying its ins and outs as an employee for a year and a half. She liked what she saw, but she also had an eye for some groundbreaking improvements, "The Sun Room has such a loyal following, I didn't want to change everything. But I did want to go a lot more local." Locally-sourced product dominates the menu and wine list, with about 80 percent of the food served coming from the immediate region, and 75 percent of the wine Ontario VQA.
I started with a perfectly seasoned asparagus and potato soup. I loved it, but I have to admit I was eyeing-up my dining mates' dishes with a little envy as Carly enjoyed the aforementioned goat cheese/prosciutto creation, Lisa took pleasure in the smoky seared scallops with bacon app (pictured above), and Matty partook of what he swears to be the best Caesar salad in Stratford.
The mains were a fantastic showcase of our region's midsummer culinary climax. I had the Panko crusted Lake Huron pickerel over crisp peas and a lemongrass cream sauce. I absolutely loved the freshness of the dish, its careful presentation, and the complementary flavour combinations. But again, I found myself looking enviously over the table at Carly's entree choice: the seared strip loin of Renecker's Palace Elk aside fresh local veg (mmmm... new potatoes) and drizzled with a red wine jus. I think my new rule is that if I ever dine with the owner of a restaurant, I'll have what she's having. Carly let me have a taste and it was just magic - the meat was perfectly done and not gamy at all, right in step with the delicacy of the veg.

I enjoyed the company as much as the meal. I think I love the people of Stratford as much as I love the food here, and these three are the cream of the crop! As we enjoyed our meal and wine, Matty told us all about the very first Stratford Pride weekend he is organizing for October 22-24 (that's gay pride, not civic pride, although the two don't have to be mutually exclusive anymore in Canada's queerest town). There's a fundraiser at Molly Bloom's August 26, and so much more... check out Matty Ian's Stratford Pride blog post to get the deets from the organizer himself!

Carly talked enthusiastically about her plans for the future, which include a patio for next year. She also let us locals know that as a "a thank you for the people who loyally support us through the winter", the Sun Room is currently offering some great deals: on Mondays, all of their heaping stir-frys are available at great value for $12 bucks (you get to pick your protein and the type of noodle you like, so I will see you all there every Monday!). From Tuesday to Saturday, after 7:30pm tables ordering two entrees get the second one for half price!

Maybe I'll have the elk with a side order of elk...

Thanks to Carly for the wonderful evening of local dining, wining ...and redesigning! I look forward to coming back to celebrate the 'new' Sun Room's birthday many, many times!

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