This dream version of a roadside tavern shares DNA with siblings Union and Côte de Boeuf in Toronto, but every detail feels fit for the country.
As we burble with delight over our plate of silky house–smoked salmon on baguette, dusted with freshly grated horseradish and goosed with pickled jalapeños, our bearded, Chuck Taylor–clad server lets us in on the secret behind the accompanying jet–black cultured butter that tastes of the sea. “We salt it to cut off fermentation, then add the squid ink.” That confirms what we’ve suspected from the moment we entered this retro roadside tavern in the heart of Grey County’s Beaver Valley: We’re not really in rural Ontario anymore.
Instead, we find ourselves in some mythical Alpine chalet, where the old wooden floors and beams glow in candlelight and large slabs of beef hang curing alongside jars of pickled walnuts and cornichons. On a nearby countertop cake stand, a freshly baked cheesecake preens. The honeyed lighting, the deep, stone–walled wine cellar fitted with one long wooden table and hung with red velvet curtains – this feels like a time–burnished mountain hideaway where generations of cooks have been tending the hearth.
In reality, it’s the latest creation from the team behind Union and Côte de Boeuf in Toronto, who have brought their love of “simple food, done well” to the countryside 150 kilometres north. Their vision of rural hospitality is warm, detailed and winning. What saves Heart’s from being almost too movie–set perfect is its food, which is good enough to make your “last meal on Earth” list.
While you’re still alive and kicking, go for a slab of 60–day air–cured grilled steak, or maybe that demi–glace–wreathed roasted chicken (raised by a guy named Gus), plus a glass or two of low–intervention European wines (like the crazy grapefruit zing of a Sicilian fermented–on–lees 2021 Abir Zibibbo). Set your internal GPS back to North America on your way home, lest you lose your way in the dark.
Don’t miss: Kimberley’s main street, Grey County Road 13, to see its charmingly restored historic buildings and take in a view of the cliffs of Old Baldy.