Restaurants, as of late, have never been the destination. For us, eating out has been a bridge to some other event, a necessary evil prior to another engagement. As a result, we haven’t had a meal in quite some time where we could linger, relax, and simply soak up the ambiance. Last Friday presented an opportunity to do that, and we made the most of it.
We’ve been to The Dish a few times, but its Secret Garden, accessible only by a separate entrance, was never made apparent to us. We walked past its concealed gate a few weeks ago, and after peeking in to discover a hidden terrace bursting with romance and greenery, resolved to return before autumn fully reared its head.
Mack called ahead to make a reservation, which ensured us a cozy table under the twinkle lights, next to the lone tree that seemed simultaneously out of place and yet right at home. From the overhead rafters hung baskets of plants, infusing the space with a touch nature so sorely lacking on many other patios in the city.
Mack in the Secret Garden
As the sky darkened to dusk and then nightfall, staff brought out tabletop candles for each party as hushed conversations continued amongst the serenity. It was a lovely setting in which to wind down after a long work week.
The food was pitch perfect as well, straightforward and comforting. I was again swayed by their deep dish quiche ($14), this time featuring chicken, artichoke hearts, Portobello mushrooms, asiago, brie and cream cheese. Mack opted for their meatball flatbread ($15), and we both decided on a side of creamy tomato and basil soup.
The soup was a little too tangy for me, though it suited Mack’s palate just fine. My quiche was as I had expected, the crisp and flaky crust and dense baked egg being exactly what I was looking for. Mack’s flatbread, however, won the entrée sweepstakes that night, with the flavourful herb-flecked meatballs stealing the show.
Deep Dish Quiche
Portions at The Dish are modest, meaning that while leftovers are usually out of the question, having room for dessert is a distinct possibility. Over coffee, we pondered our options, and settled on the phyllo lemon tart. After receiving our phyllo-encrusted dish, we realized puff pastry might have been the better choice for ease of separating the crust from the serving vessel, but the custard, which manoeuvred between sweet and tart with ease, accented with the smooth whipped cream and biting raspberries, made up for it.
Phyllo Lemon Tart
Service was warm but not overly attentive, but it suited the relaxed mood of the patio. I would imagine, however, that as most parties seemed to be of the lingering sort, the level of staff attentiveness might have been an adaptation to the clientele.
Our coffee mugs were refilled as we finished the last of the dessert and relished the freedom of our open schedule that evening. Though we may not have the opportunity to do it again for a while, I’m glad were able to whittle the night away at the Secret Garden before the end of summer.
The Dish (Secret Garden hours are dependent on the weather – call ahead)
12417 Stony Plain Road