Dining Review: Chilled Cork Restaurant & Lounge in Chatham-Kent, Ontario
“Deliciously eclectic” is how I simply describe the Chilled Cork Restaurant & Lounge in Chatham-Kent, Ontario. Located in the fab Retro Suites Hotel the restaurant’s menu includes a mix of seasonally fresh local fare, exotic notes and modern twists on traditional and familiar flavors crafted by Executive Chef Dylan McLay.
Fresh, Local Fare and Exotic Flavors
The Chilled Cork Restaurant and Lounge offers a main menu for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner throughout the year and is recognized as a pioneer in the beef market. Chef McLay also works with farmers, ranchers and fishermen to bring deliciously fresh Southwestern Ontario ingredients to diners. The menu changes with what’s in season and as a guest of Chatham-Kent Tourism from the #TBEX Conference I happened to enjoy entrees off the seasonal menu and each plate was a perfect little edible masterpiece.
Wild asparagus grew in my Western New York backyard when I was a kid so I’m a fiend for fresh asparagus. (Yes, I was a strange child, I actually liked and ate my vegetables.) Lucky me! During my June visit to the Chilled Cork Restaurant, this spring vegetable was in season and bountiful. So much so, I ended up enjoying two dishes with my favorite veggie.
First was the Ontario Asparagus Salad with fresh asparagus stalks, wild boar bacon, fresh snipped chives, merlot poached quail eggs, and topped with hand-shaved aged Parmesan cheese and champagne truffle vinaigrette. Later in the meal, my main entrée was the Lake Erie Pickerel (also known as Walleye) served with asparagus, turned potatoes, pea shoots, ginger and lemongrass beurre blanc which is a white butter sauce.
I also tasted the Wheatley Perch from the town of Wheatley located about 40 miles away on Lake Erie. This dish was served with baby clam and English pea risotto, shallot, garlic, sweet corn, baby spinach, chive oil and pea shoots.
The asparagus was crisp, fish was tender and moist and all flavors melded well together. Everything was cooked to perfection and I expected nothing less, since Chef McLay has catered meals during his career for high-profile people as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, David and Victoria Beckham, and famed Scottish chef Gordan Ramsey. In 2006 he was named Britain’s Best Chef Under 20 is recognized for bringing local flavors into the kitchen as well as local and regional wines to diners.
Oh Yes, There Was Dessert
A meal isn’t complete without dessert, right? I ended my meal with a Classic Lemon Tart consisting of rich lemon custard, short pastry and fresh raspberry coulis. The creamy tartness complemented with the sweet coulis was a perfect way to end a fresh meal.
Chilled Cork Restaurant & Lounge Signature Dishes
Signature dishes include Canadian Kobe Burger with Canadian bleu cheese, retro bacon, red onion, lettuce, tomato and horseradish aioli topped on a rustic bun. Australian Kangaroo served with corn, fingerling potatoes, peas, spinach, scallions and zucchini with a single malt reduction is also another favorite.
As I mentioned, the Chilled Cork Restaurant and Lounge is recognized for its beef. Their steaks are from grain-fed cattle and meat is well-marbled.
Standing by the inside entrance of the Chilled Cork is a vintage popcorn machine. Walls are adorned with vintage posters and modern artwork. Décor is totally up my alley with no table and chair setting matching another one. Retro Suites’ owners, Rob and Cathy Myers, have carried out the nostalgic, eclectic theme from the hotel into the restaurant making it a unique place to dine.
Nuts & Bolts about the Chilled Cork Restaurant & Lounge
Located in Southwestern Ontario and just over an hour’s drive east of Detroit and about a three-hour drive west of Toronto, the Chilled Cork Restaurant & Lounge is a culinary adventure and destination upon itself. Find fresh and delicious fare, attentive staff and unforgettable ambiance. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served with brunch offered Saturdays and Sundays. Reservations suggested.
- Follow the North Star and Find American History in Chatham-Kent, Ontario
- Underground Railroad Chatham-Kent
- Visit Buxton Settlement of Descendants of Freed Slaves
- Preserving the Legacy of Black Mecca