By Lori Bosworth
During the last weekend of the very busy Lowe’s Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District, my mother and I considered ourselves incredibly lucky to get a table, (not just a table, a booth) without a reservation at the Pure Spirits Oyster House and Grill. Popping out of the pages of Bleak House or some such, Pure Spirits Oyster House strives and succeeds at looking like a mid-19th century public house from the dark-planked floors to the oak-backed booths to the dark interior. The hustle and bustle of servers and patrons on this particular afternoon added to the impression.
Pure Spirits Oyster House offers about seven or eight wines by the glass in the $10-$16 range. My mother started with a glass of Pinot Grigio ($11), which she pronounced crisp and fruity, and which was also a perfect pairing for the pasta she would order. Although admittedly the wine glasses were large, for $11, the pour could have been a bit more generous. On the upside, we were immediately served a basket of fresh-baked sourdough bread
I opted for Traditional Provençale Mussels from P.E.I. with wine, tomato and herbs ($15) and was not disappointed. Although they weren’t quite as fresh as the mussels I enjoyed on the patio of Charlottetown Harbour several years ago, these were a close second. The mussels were served in a huge bowl, which provided an ample serving for lunch while the broth was heavenly for dipping the sourdough bread.
My mother chose the Spiced Squash Cannelloni ($18). Stuffed with roasted squash, ricotta cheese and topped with a sage/amaretto crumble and Soubise sauce, the flavours blended well while the pasta was pleasantly al dente.
Despite the crowds and growing line outside, our delightful server did not rush us at all as we spent several hours enjoying the warmth of this tavern on a welcome-to-winter-weather-week-before-Christmas Saturday afternoon.