The Guild Calgary – A Different Beast
There’s a different beast on the Calgary food scene…a beast from the east! The Guild officially opened in the historic Hudson’s Bay building during busy Stampede season way back in July. Kind of a balls-y move but after six years of dreaming, planning, and extensive renovations the Oliver and Bonacini owned restaurant required a grand entrance.
And what a grand entrance it was. For the entire Stampede, The Guild had a large smoker going out on the huge 175 seat covered patio with a pared down ‘pop up’ menu. The smoky aromas were a great way to introduce passers by to the basic philosophy of the restaurant; hearty cuisine with a huge focus on locally sourced proteins. Hubby and I attended the Stampede party splash-out held in the restaurant’s basement; a below ground haunt of epic proportions with dark corners, sexy brass accents, and gorgeous wall frescoes of skeletal bird and reptile illustrations mixed with large red roses. The subterranean space, combined with the gorgeous wall blooms and exclusive Eau Clair Distillery Sub Rosa Gin and Vodka, is now open as a 160 seat Stephen Avenue ‘speakeasy’ named Sub Rosa.
We waited a month or so before visiting for dinner, our anticipation building with each passing day.
The main entrance is, for the most part, understated…though it shares a transparent display of various hanging meats with the main dining room. Once you enter the main dining area, it’s a totally different story as your view sweeps downward and across the entire multi level room below. To the left (and looking out onto the patio and street) there are large windows which shed light onto the nearby tables of the top tier. Looking central (and down a few stairs) are cozy black leather banquets with brass accents throughout. To the right, a row of regular tables are set across the terrazzo tile, one of the only recognizeable remnants of the original Hudson’s Bay. The feel of the room is that of art deco meets modern industrial and you can view the open kitchen from any seat in the large room, thanks to the theatre style multi level seating. The large semi circular bar becomes an opening act, through which the open kitchen (the main feature) can be viewed. The action is mainly centred around the central wood- and charcoal-burning parilla grill which became a project on it’s own…adding a million dollars to the final cost of the restaurant. It’s central location, grill style and massive size required a specially designed system and a lengthy fire code re-write.
The menu is a mix of old school favourites, bright new flavours, and comfort food. We’ll just say that with all the meat on the menu (slow roasted pig’s head, tomahawk rib steaks for two, and a 28 ounce porterhouse) that parilla grill will certainly get a good workout!
The garlic basil roasted Escargots are not often found on many local menus but it’s a dish that my husband is sure to order every time he sees it. He was quite pleased to have them all to himself, but for some reason he thought he should be sharing my Gin & Tonic Salmon! This very popular dish is comprised of softly smoked and gin cured organic salmon morsels with cucumber, tonic gel, crème fraîche, and Irish Soda Bread crumble. It was way too delicious to share.
All the meat is 100% locally sourced (except for the salmon!) which allows chef Ryan O’Flynn and crew to showcase the best Alberta has to offer. The menu has a daily Lambtastic Farms feature, which happened to be this Lamb Stew on the day that we visited. The lamb was so tender and juicy while the red wine sauce was rich and well seasoned…it was only missing a bit of bread for dipping.
It’s a shame that this Brome Lake Duck Confit and Lentils dish is no longer on the menu, but maybe it just didn’t make the cut. The duck was perfectly brined and nicely confited, however I could have used a few more of the roasted carrots (one is never enough!!) and felt that it needed much more of that delicious burnt orange sauce to pull it together.
Our starters and main dishes had left us feeling pretty satiated, but with gentle prodding we were able to enjoy this outstanding Crown Royal Whisky Bread Pudding. It was everything a bread pudding should be; soft and squishy in the middle with crusty outer edges and surface. It was rich and creamy, with a bit of pucker from the Saskatoon Berries and sweetened by the Crown Royal caramel sauce. We ate the entire dish clean.
With friendly service and an engaging atmosphere, both hubby and I were very happy with how our visit to The Guild went. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a cozy spot with a craving for comforting roasted or grilled meat dishes and great cocktails.
200 8 Avenue SW; 403-770-2313
Mon – Sat: 11am to 1am
Sun: 11am to 10pm