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Beech Tree pub warms carollers at opening

As an English-style gastropub looking to rekindle old traditions, the Beech Tree had a fitting opening night Dec. 6 when it welcomed a troupe of Victorian carollers.

Robert Maxwell savours a craft beer at the official Dec. 6 opening of The Beech Tree pub on Kingston Road. With a menu inspired by English gastropubs and made from scratch by chef Jason Cox, Maxwell said the Beech Tree is an all-DIY effort that grew out of the small booth he ran at the Toronto Underground Market. PHOTO: Andrew Hudson

Robert Maxwell savours a craft beer at the official Dec. 6 opening of The Beech Tree pub on Kingston Road. With a menu inspired by English gastropubs and made from scratch by chef Jamie Newman, Maxwell said the Beech Tree is an all-DIY effort that grew out of the small booth he ran at the Toronto Underground Market.
PHOTO: Andrew Hudson

Fresh from a reading of A Christmas Carol put on by Kingston Road Village businesses, the singers warmed their pipes at Beech Tree with hot chocolate and candy-cane crumbles specially made for them by Chef Jamie Newman.

Since its quiet “soft launch” three weeks ago, the Beech Tree has been serving dishes to warm even Scrooge’s heart: Sunday roasts with bone-marrow gravy and Yorkshire pudding, a half chicken with leeks and pot barley, not to mention sides like house sausage rolls in pear mustard and the pub’s thick-cut, triple-cooked chips (“fries” to most on this side of the pond).

More warming still are shelves stocked with many small-vineyard wines, craft beers and whiskies made here in Ontario to wash it all down.

“It’s honest food, not terribly pretentious,” says owner Robert Maxwell.

“But it’s tasty, and made with finesse.”

Given a previous career as a data analyst for film and TV broadcasters, Maxwell is an unlikely restaurateur.

But as a long-time foodie and fan of new English chefs like Heston Blumenthal, Maxwell got a leg-up when he opened a booth at the Toronto Underground Market in 2011. Hosted at Evergreen Brick Works, the food fair gives home cooks a chance to line up beside chefs and try to wow people with a taste of something new.

Now, after floor-to-ceiling renovations at Beech Tree, Maxwell has teamed up with Newman, formerly a sous chef at Yorkville’s high-end Opus restaurant, to realize his DIY dream.

“We’re really into nose to tail cooking, and we’re going to get into that more,” he said. “We’re going to introduce things like suet pudding – you can’t find that anywhere.”

It helps that Maxwell has butcher, Close to the Bone, who supplied him at the Underground Market, and cheese monger Art of Cheese just across the street.

“There’s just great connections here,” said Maxwell.

The Beech Tree is open at Kingston and Lawlor Avenue from 5 to 11 p.m., Tuesday to Sunday. Visit thebeechtreepub.ca to see a menu or catch up on Maxwell’s blog.

Jamie Newman is the chef at The Beech Tree. A previous version of this story incorrectly identified him. Beach Metro regrets the error. 

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