Bar Agricole is on 11th street, in a somewhat seedy area largely known for its nightlife and late-night post-drunk binging from the mobile crepe truck rather than farm-to-table dining and craft cocktails. But it’s there, hidden cleverly behind a blocky slate wall, blue lettering on black hiding its identity in a smart understated industrial camouflage. If you didn’t know where to look, you’d easily miss it, and one might think Bar Agricole actually doesn’t want to be known or found. But once you step inside, you’re confronted with a lovely oasis (a bit incongruous for this area) of exposed wood, high ceilings, and striking light fixtures which hang down like cascades of frozen water. It’s a restauarant that doesn’t quite match the immediate neighbourhood.Brunch is fantastic. Portions are not huge, but they sure don't skimp on the butter and fat and salt, and the small(er) portions go an awful long way. I was more impressed with their brunch this time around than the dinner I had earlier this year...
Pork belly and fried eggs - not for the faint of heart. But it's beautiful. Three substantial, nicely crisped but uber-tender cubes of pork belly, along with a nice vinegared melange of ramps and scattered greens top two golden sunny-side-up eggs, their vibrant yellows peeking through the tangle of greens. I could have used some bread to sop up the runny yolk and the awesome juices that lingered on the plate. Luckily DD had also ordered a scone to go with his pork belly dish (it was that hard to resist), so I used bits of it in lieu of toast.
I was impressed that DK took a chance and selected the scramble with fromage blanc and spring peas - it had the potential to be just ok - but instead the eggs were cooked using my favourite technique: slow-stirred over very low heat, with lots of butter. This was a trick I learned from an old boyfriend, who in turn learned it from his ex-girlfriend from Spain. Put a knob (oh, say, half a stick) of butter in the skillet, turn the heat to low, and when the butter melts, break the eggs into the pan and stir. Soon the eggs will reduce into half its original volume and form into a creamy mass, with very soft and tender curds, and they will taste buttery and fantastic.
The hash had great corned beef flavor supported by the heartiness of the potatoes and tempered with poached egg and vinegary mustard hollandaise. Another not-so-light dish.
In addition to the savouries we couldn’t resist the sweet offerings, and indeed, I confess that we asked the staff to serve these first.
These were beautiful beignets. My only complaint: that there should have been four (at least!) instead of just a measly three. They were cooked so well – lightly crisp and crackly with sugar on the outside, the buckwheat adding an additional lovely textural mouthfeel, and the rum raisins were not too sweet and perhaps not boozy enough. As always I also wanted more cream.
The semolina pancakes tasted like they had been fried on the griddle in butter, not a bad thing in my book. The edges were crisp with that glorious richness that only butter can impart, and the cakes were limp, not firm. I didn’t taste much of the rosemary, but the strawberries were a nice complement and foil to the butteriness.
DD and I sampled their take on the Bloody Mary - a sangrita - which is traditionally a nonalcoholic drink that accompanied a shot of tequila blanco. In the Bar Agricole version, it seemed to be a pretty boozy mixture (alas, we neglected to ask which alchohol they used, perhaps it was tequila, but I didn't taste it) that included tomato and spices. It was delicious, but a little too heavy on the alcohol for me. DD, coming from a heavy bout of drinking the night before, agreed that one would have been sufficient as a hair of the dog; he regretted ordering a second.
They have a gorgeous patio that would be so ideal for a brunch with puppy friends; alas, they're not allowed, due to its being an enclosed space rather than open to the street. I'd definitely come back for brunch and give them another shot at dinner; our meal there in January was a bit uneven. They do make great cocktails, and if we return we'll try for seats at the bar. Next time.
More Flickr photos here.