After he left the Black Hoof Café it has only been on rare occasions that we’ve had the chance to taste chef Geoff Hopgood’s cooking. Now Hopgood’s Foodliner on Roncesvalles has opened the days of limiting ourselves to the occasional Sweet Slippery Bobkin* are over.
The menu at Hopgood’s Foodliner is a comfortable mix of Canadian East Coast favourites like donairs with sweet sauce joined to modern, inventive dishes like the crispy pork shoulder with scallops. Given the propensity of Maritimers for living in places other than the Maritimes a restaurant like this seems like it was a long time coming. And when you combine Torontonians who established an East Coast appetite while at Dal with those Atlantic transplants it’s not hard to imagine a line-up forming before the doors open at six.
On a visit last Saturday we started with the Halifax Donairs ($12) and the appetiser special that featured a live scallop (including its coral) on the shell, covered in a generous heap of their deliciously rich crab dip and then baked. (Chef Hopgood mentioned on Twitter that he’ll also leave the scallop raw for those that request it that way.) The donairs with their soft pita or the crab dip with Triskets sounded like the smart money choices for those sitting at the bar and contemplating their appetite while working through the top-notch cocktail, wines-by-the-glass, and beer list.
With those compressed and crisped cubes of pork that act as podiums for the scallops and sit beside broccoli three ways Hopgood’s take is at the opposite end of the high-low spectrum from the example set by a similar recipe in the Joe Beef cookbook. But it was really for the tiny sausage and sweet bread stew ($19) that we engaged in fork fencing. The stew’s sauce reminded me of the tomato sauce in Pizza Pockets–but with fresher, herbed flavours and now that I’ve mastered some degree of patience no scalded tongue. We both can’t help but marvel at how crispy the dusted and fried sweet breads managed to stay.
The Hoof Café was ground zero for the Toronto’s brunch addicts and it sounds like they’re working on a brunch menu that could launch as early as the spring.
Unlike both outposts in the Hoof offal empire Hopgood’s takes reservations, but for weekend bookings call at least a week in advance. I didn’t and we were in a “we need the table back at X” situation but that was fine given our plans later that night and (more particularly) the smoothly professional service crew that features some familiar Black Hoof faces.
Hopgood’s Foodliner and their neighbour Barque Smokehouse are leading a wave of dining change for their strip of Roncy. The young families, established older locals, and trekking foodsters seem more than happy to welcome Chef Hopgood and his tight meat-and-seafood menu balanced on East Coast traditions.*Hopgood’s wacky collaborative creation with chef Guy Rawling for Food Truck Eats 3 that involved having guests rest their hand on a rack of antlers while they blow-torched the dessert’s meringue.