Think upscale casual. Cloth napkins, lovely glassware, cozy seating, and a menu full of scrumptious gourmet fare with a focus on food stuffs that are local to Ontario. The perfect place for a quiet dinner meeting, or a meal with your significant other. Not the kind of place I would normally think of as kid friendly. And yet it was. It was actually one of the most kid friendly restaurants we’ve ever eaten at. It was a pleasantly surprising experience.
The first night we ate at Bb33 my kids were not in a good mood. It had been a long day and we were about to have a very late dinner. My children were whiny. I was tense, just waiting for the inevitable blow up. The wait staff didn’t blink an eye. I was never made to feel uncomfortable for having brought my kids into this fine dining place. On the contrary, it was quite the opposite.
The instant we stepped in the door they whisked out colouring sheets and crayons for the kids. This was not the sort of place I expected to see crayons at. Next pleasant surprise — the kids menu had real food on it, and ranged from homey comfort foods like PB&J and grilled cheese sandwiches to chicken strips and tenderloin steak. Yes, steak, on the kids menu. I tried to talk the six year old into ordering it, but the grilled cheese was too enticing. Third and most pleasant surprise, the kids food came out ridiculously fast and was served before ours. (The waiter asked us if it would be ok if they brought the kids food out first. Oh heck yes! I wish more places would do this!)
The other remarkable thing was the wait staff themselves. They spoke to my children as though they were people. They patiently let my six year old order her own food. When we came back down for breakfast the next morning the fellow who served us bent down to get on eye level with the kids while speaking with them and took their orders, without patronizing or being silly. Like I said, most kid friendly place ever.
My kids eat at restaurants fairly frequently and usually at places that aren’t targeted to families. We can get through a meal without crayons. But at the end of a long day, while on holiday, eating a late-it’s-almost-their-bedtime-when-we’re-being-seated dinner, I will gladly take every little bit of help I can get. Colouring sheets, crayons, food that comes magically fast and is followed up by mini-sized cookies for dessert. All of these things help to distract and calm my kids, which means mom can relax too.
Oh and did I mention kids eat free? If you are staying at the hotel, kids 6 and under eat for free, while kids ages 7 through 12 eat for half price. Our dinner on the first night came to around $60, an amount I would easily pay for a fine dinner for just myself and my husband. But when you factor in the fact that the bill covered the kids too, it’s actually a steal. Particularly for the quality of the food, which was fantastic.
We ate four meals at Bb33 over the course of our stay, two dinners and two breakfasts. I will usually go out of my way to avoid the on site restaurant when staying at a hotel. We might do breakfast or brunch, but dinner almost never. All of that goes out the window when travelling with kids. The convenience of dining on site overrides any other considerations. But you usually pay for that convenience, as I find hotel restaurants in general to be over priced. Bb33 was not cheap, it felt like a deal once you factored in the free kids meals, but it was not cheap. However the difference here is I felt like it was much more a matter of you get what you pay for vs overcharging a captive audience. Think high quality meal at a fair price versus over priced mediocre hamburger.
The breakfast buffet was solid. Both juice and coffee was included in the price. The hot options changed each morning and included eggs, bacon, sausage, eggs benedict, french toast and pancakes. There was also a decent pastry selection, bagels, toast, cottage cheese, cold cuts, hot and cold cereal, granola, yogurt and a delightful variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
|Breakfast smiles, with about a third of the buffet area showing behind.|
At dinner time the girls tried both the grilled cheese and the pasta. The grilled cheese was made with real cheese, not processed, and had the crusts cut off. The waiter grated fresh parmesan over top of their pasta. The girls were ridiculously pleased with their meals. I stole a bite of each, everything was delicious.
and two oil based dips, one savory, one spicy.
For dinner the first night I tried the Digby Bay Scallops and Black Tiger Shrimp. They were served stacked in between layers of a light phyllo dough pastry, with a chili garlic creme sauce, which had a nice bite to it. The seafood was over sized and perfectly prepared. My husband raved about his pork schnitzel. It was topped with poppy seed spätzle and served with it’s own mini gravy boat.
When we came back the next night I had the Linguini with Kale and Charred Summer Vegetables. It was fantastic. I’m salivating sitting here thinking about it as I write this. Hubby’s rib eye steak with garlic mashed potatoes was also good, he claimed it was the best steak he’d had in some time.
We didn’t take advantage of it, but when we were there they were offering a “BBlicious” prix fixe menu (a hold over of their Winterlicious menu), that offered appetizer, main course and dessert for $35. This type of offering seems to be an on going thing, right now they have a similar “Mushroom Festival” deal where you get a five course meal for $40 per person. The beer selection was my one disappointment. For a place that touts itself as trying to support fresh and local, I’d like to see some Ontario Craft beers on the menu.
Overall, if you’re staying at the Eaton Chelsea, I recommend eating dinner at least once at Bb33 Bistro & Brasserie. The pricing is reasonable for a fine dining establishment. The food is excellent. And the place is also amazingly kid friendly. If you’re staying at the hotel kids eat either free or half priced, based on their ages. This makes the already reasonable pricing into somewhat of a deal for a family or four or five. Let me know if you try it.
Disclosure: My family was invited to stay as guests of the Eaton Chelsea for two nights. Complimentary meals at Bb33 were included at part of our stay.