Matt and I were so excited to check out the Guild during Big Taste YYC to see what all the fuss is about! As soon as we walked in, we were greeted with warm smiles, complimentary coat check and a beautiful main entrance. Walking into the dimly-lit dining room with its imposing dark wood, hunting trophies, high ceilings and expansive kitchen and bar area created a real sense of anticipation before we even sat down.
There was an impressive bourbon, whiskey and wine selection, so we knew we were in good hands. Matt loves an old fashioned before dinner, but wanted to try something off the signature list and asked the waiter for his opinion. He recommended the Harley, which was a warm and rich blend of bourbon, scotch, pipe tobacco (!), espresso, bitters and lemon oil. A very nice drink and I may have stolen more than just one sip! I ordered a classic Bloody Caesar because I can’t resist a drink that comes with a snack as a garnish. My fellow Caesar drinkers feel me on this one, I’m sure!
I started with a wood-grilled acorn squash salad. Charred and chilled vegetables, crispy sage leaves and Sylvan star cheese were stacked beautifully on a ricotta base. All the cool, creamy, smoky and tangy flavours made this a wonderful start to the meal.
Matt ordered the house-smoked salmon chowder to start and while it didn’t photograph as well as my salad, the soup was perfectly velvety with a lot of interesting flavours and textures inside. There were a lot of veggies and generous pieces of salmon in the bowl. We were pretty sure there were also smoky little chunks of lardon or some other cured pork in there too. A perfect, warming dish to eat while staring out what used to be the Bay’s display windows into the snowy street outside.
I ordered the pork and beans feature entree. It came out as a small skillet of slightly spicy pork sausage, pork belly, bacon and pulled hock on a cozy bed of cassoulet. Sweet, savoury and a perfect homage to a classic comfort food. Our waiter recommended a glass of the Cave Spring Gamay from Niagara, $15/glass and a tasty, light red to go with my heavy pork dish.
Matt had the maple-glazed Beretta Farms brisket with braised black barley, prairie corn, Saskatoon berries and pickled leeks. This was another nicely balanced dish. Rich bites of beef were countered well by the bright berries and leeks. The beef and saskatoon combination was actually quite addictive. We loved every dish, but if we hadn’t been so full I know we would have bickered over the last few bites of the brisket.
Dessert was sticky maple pudding, which was sweet, but not cloying. The apple conserve was an incredible concentration of sweet apple flavour in one small scoop – perfect for dipping the pudding! The vanilla ice cream served on top of the pudding had been chilled well and held its form until the last bite, not that it took us very long to inhale this dish. We wanted cocktails with dessert as well and had the Sherry Fog, which was tart and refreshing, as well as the Midnight Mass, a little smoother with a hint of chocolate. (No pictures of these beauties as we had lost daylight by that point… or perhaps just my hand-eye coordination!)
Overall it was a great meal enjoyed in a hip, but unpretentious atmosphere with casual uniforms, simple glassware and charmingly mismatched dinnerware. Service was warm and friendly with multiple staff members stopping by to supplement our primary server. The place was packed and we considered ourselves lucky to scoop one of the last reservations available on the Saturday night! The Guild has plans to expand and is definitely a place to watch going forward. We agreed it would be a great place to host an event or to bring friends visiting from out of town or overseas for a taste of some truly great Canadian food.