The Reef

by Lauren Mote

A different kind of comfort food, comforting a different kind of person.

This casual yet grungy haven of rum and Caribbean comfort food pleases the people who show up in track-pants and winter toques, or the local diners coming in for their date night, wearing something in between their best and their track-pants. Regardless of what you wear, the staff are so easy-going here, they probably wouldn’t notice if you were wearing pajamas. Christmas cards and novelty tin signs hang wherever possible, along with streamers and ribbons – definitely a place where anyone can feel a sense of belonging – isn’t that the first sign of a successful restaurant?

Starting the meal with a Dark ‘n Stormy ($9) at the bar was a must – The Reef uses homemade ginger-beer, Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, lime juice and sugar. Delicious. On the “Small Tings” menu, I shared a J.A.H. Dip ($9) – jalapeno, spinach, artichoke, cream cheese and fried tortillas – with my friend Luca who joined me, followed by “Caribbean Special Tings” West Indian Curry ($10) – goat, white rice, coleslaw, mango chutney, and dahi, a cucumber/yogurt sauce.

I thought the service was attentive and genuine, not forced or over the top – they’re just having fun… the quality of homemade product was outstanding for the price, really great value. Almost everything was homemade, however I happened to peer behind the bar (we were sitting at bar stools) and spotted a bottle of Boone’s Sangria – I totally thought they would have made their own with fresh and wonderful exotic fruits – clearly I’m dreaming. Imagine how amazing a homemade Caribbean Sangaree (the West Indies equivalent of the popular mixed red wine cocktail originating from Spain and Portugal) would be? While Luca and I sipped on our digestives – me a double Barbancourt 15 yr rum (Haiti, $10/oz), and Luca a double Matusalem 15 yr “Gran Reserva” (Cuba, $10/oz), we witnessed the weirdest drink being created – the ABC Mango Cocktail, by the pitcher! Amber rum, blue curacao, lime and mango slush.

For dessert, just because we already there, and it was a suggestion from our super attentive bartender, fried bananas and vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce – it was a bit of an “Earl’s” dessert, but we enjoyed it anyway.

The Reef is extremely accommodating for vegetarians too, and I am not sure if that’s due to the location, or due to the amount of vegetarians consuming Caribbean food.

The bill was reasonable, food was great, atmosphere comforting – we shared a lot of laughs that night, although that could’ve been the rum talking!

It took me back to the days of Caribana in Toronto – the best Caribbean food I’ve ever had, but it’s nice to know that a place like The Reef always has it’s doors open, just up the road.

Reef on Urbanspoon

About Lauren Mote

Lauren has been an intricate part of the food industry for many years. Whether it’s behind the bar, in the kitchen, tasting and learning about wine, or sitting with her laptop writing food stories and reviews at the local coffee house, it was clear at an early age that Lauren’s professional and personal life would be completely consumed by the joy and passion of edibles.
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