Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Another Look at The One and Only, The Only on King

Another Look at The One and Only, Only on King


Nov 23rd 2016: Approaching its 10th year, TOOK (The Only on King), with its fully realized farm-to-table philosophy, devoted acknowledgement of the local terroir and support of local farmers and producers, was the personification and outstanding archetype of the virtuous up-to-the-minute Ontario restaurant. According to several sources the landmark TOOK has ceased operations. The restaurant will be missed by its legions of fans. We wish Paul Harding and staff best wishes in their future endeavours.




BY BRYAN LAVERY


In its eight year, The Only on King, with its fully realized farm-to-table philosophy, devoted acknowledgement of the local terroir and support of local farmers and producers, remains the personification and outstanding archetype of the virtuous up-to-the-minute Ontario restaurant.


The restaurant’s kitchen, led by Paul Harding is a self-proclaimed “labour of love.” When Harding is not chained to the stove, he and his culinary team continue to find new ways to integrate the locavore ethic into all aspects of “The Only”.

Harding began preparing family meals in his youth and developed a passionate enthusiasm for cooking. After high school, Harding moved to Toronto to attend George Brown College. Harding worked in Toronto at Café Societa and Michelle's Brasserie, honing his skills and was later employed as the chef de partie at Auberge du Pommier and the much heralded JOV Bistro, an internationally acclaimed neighbourhood bistro in its heyday. 

The difficulties and disciplines of local food procurement and executing an ever-changing daily menu with a deep appreciation of the seasonal palate has been evidence of the kitchen’s continuing dedication. And it needs to be just that, to keep up with the demands and disciplines of an ever-changing daily menu.

This style of farm-to-table menu is unique by London standards and something that very few chefs/restaurateurs would be in a position to execute with the kind of success that Harding has achieved. The menu is distinctive, accessible and highlights the best local products and ingredients available. Believe me this is no easy feat – it is a very labour-intensive, hands-on approach given the traditionally slim profit margins in this style of restaurant.

The cooking repertoire emphasizes the traditions of classic French and Italian cuisine and the aesthetics of modern British cuisine.  Located in a historic building and former dairy on King Street in the London downtown dining district, the restaurant has a welcoming character with just that right amount of off-the-cuff insouciance that often comes with success. The conversational hum can be loud when the restaurant is hopping – which is most nights.

Incidentally, “The Only” was voted number 6 of “Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2008” by enRoute magazine. It has lived up to its early accolades and the kitchen does not rest on its laurels. “The Only” is collaborative by nature and there have been many events where “The Only” has partnered with other culinary notables like: Victor Barry of Splendido, Vineland’s Tawse Winery and Nick and Nat 's Uptown 21", a gourmet hot spot in Waterloo.  A  collaboration with Michael Caballo and Tobey Nemeth of Edulus restaurant in Toronto (which was voted number 1 of “Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2012” by enRoute magazine) was a much talked about sold-out success.

Dinner at “The Only” on King begins with a basket of warm, white-linen-wrapped house-made bread accompanied by long, crisp, melt-in-your-mouth breadsticks and a pot of salty, creamy butter. In keeping with their philosophy of local food procurement, flour, grains and legumes are sourced from Mike Mathews, owner of the historic Arva Flour Mills.

The list of local producers that “The Only” supports is extensive.  Farben Farms is Harding’s choice for Berkshire Pork raised in a natural environment with no additives, hormones or drugs. Another producer and culinary farmer, Lo Maximo Meats is an outgrowth of Spence Farms, a 5th generation family farm located in Chatham- Kent. Paul and Sara Spence’s  Lo Maximo Meats offers traditionally raised beef, pork, chicken, goat, lamb and eggs with no hormones or steroids, aged and flash frozen by a local abattoir and sold at regional Farmers’ Markets but with a Latin American sensibility.

The Only on King’s classic Boudin (white sausage) of  chicken has become a delicious signature dish, on this occasion it was served with a fried egg, Swiss chard and garlic sauce.  Our charismatic waiter, Margeaux Levesque, gave me a binder with a dossier on candidates for my dinner entitled “From Our Family Farm To Your Fork” – “Meet Your Chicken!”  There was a dizzying array of potential contenders and all had lived a happy life on the Spence family farm where they “had the opportunity to roam in an open area with fresh air, sunshine, bugs, grass and weeds to feed on”.  The information provided included: date of birth, markings/distinguishing characteristics, likes, dislikes and other personal information that included questionable hobbies and diet.

In addition to Harding’s often ironic sense of humour he is proficient at butchering and making many house-made specialties: bacon, sausage, terrines, galantines, pates and confits. Charcuterie, once considered the dominion of bourgeois cooking, was practically a lost art until the emergence of the farm-to-table movement and the tattooed hipster chef. Butchering, poaching, braising, sautéing, and sauce-making are the fundamental skills the kitchen employs to attain their objective: superb taste. 

“The Only’s” kitchen has an aptitude for cooking lesser-known cuts of meat to great versatility. I have many memories of organic flat-iron steak, braised shin and grilled organic beef heart  cooked to perfection. Simple sauces at this restaurant accentuate flavour elevating a good piece of meat or fish to a superior one.  An appetizer that the kitchen turned into an entrée of golden-brown, FisherFolk-sourced tuna meatballs, were braised in tomato with olives, capers and pine nuts, accompanied by knock-out gnocchi.  

This kitchen crafts silky crème brûlées and a yummy pavlova-like dessert aptly named Eton mess with berries sourced from Heeman’s Berry Farms.

Guests are allowed to bring their own wine for a corkage fee. The wine list is interesting and varied featuring good quality VQA's. There are always several house made seasonal cocktails with a varied selection of bottled and draft beer. The restaurant is a supporter and proponent of Food Day Canada and is listed in Where to Eat in Canada.

Harding plays to all his strengths with a tight grasp on the tenets of terroir and sustainability. Chef’s culinary viewpoint and cooking repertoire continue to astound while drawing farm-to-table enthusiasts, to the intimate 40-seat dining room. If you are looking for your inner gastronome this is the ticket.

TUESDAY TO SATURDAY 5:30 PM TO CLOSE

The Only on King

172 King St, Londonwww.theonlyonking.ca


519- 936-2064

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