The Augusta House

IMG_5449Augusta Street off James Street South is one of our favourite places for food and drink in Hamilton.

It’s home to my favourite pub, The Winking Judge, as well as a host of other great eateries and bars side by side.

We’ve been slowly working our way down the street and sampling each restaurant since I moved to the area last Spring.

We hadn’t been to The Augusta House Gastropub yet when Rory spotted a WagJag deal so we couldn’t wait to go check it out.


Ambiance & Decor

From the outside, there isn’t much to distinguish The Augusta House from its neighbours. In fact, even the bar you’re presented with as soon as you walk in feels just like any other pub in this area.

However, through the back is a surprisingly spacious dining room with dimmer lighting, cozy booths and a more upscale feel. In the back corner of this area is the kitchen and a bit of an out-of-place “stage,” where the flooring and wall-decor ends and is filled in with ply wood.

I think the space could have been used a bit better – even though it’s a huge room, I felt like we were very close to couple at the next table. I could hear pretty much every word of their conversation, and given they were on a first date that made me feel a bit embarrassed – nobody needs an audience for an awkward first date, right?


Food & Drink

The Augusta House has a fairly large selection of beer. Given that we’re both (ahem) beer lovers, we were very surprised to find few piqued our interest. Almost all of the selection was from large breweries like Molson. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as many people like these beers, but the prices were pretty high as well – $6.75 for a domestic up to $7.75 for an import. I’m not so tempted to get beer when I can walk 20 feet in any direction from the restaurant and get the same or better beer for cheaper.

Since we came on a WagJag deal, we were given a set menu with 1 starter, 2 main courses and 1 desert. There were roughly three to four options for each course. Normally I would be hesitant to review a place based on an atypical menu, but all of the items are on the regular menu, so on we go.


Appetiser:

Blue Crab Potato Skins (normally $8)

“blue crab, goat cheese, bacon, green onion, tarragon on baked potato skins, served with cilantro sour cream”
IMG_5461For our starter, we ordered Blue Crab Potato Skins. This was definitely the most intriguing item from the appetizer list. The potato skins were topped with blue crab, bacon, green onion goats cheese and drizzled with cilantro sour cream.

We both liked the skins, but found the combination a bit odd – bites with more goat cheese drowned out the crab flavor, and bites with less goat cheese were too bland. We think it might have worked better with a bit more bacon (to add some saltiness) and more goat cheese. They’re worth a try, anyway.


Entrees:

Cacciatore (normally $22)

“duck confit, sautéed mushrooms and spinach in a goat cheese cream sauce on penne” 

cacciatore “duck confit, sautéed mushrooms and spinach in a goat cheese cream sauce on penne” For Rory’s main, he ordered the Cacciatore. The pasta was well cooked, the mushroom flavor made an excellent base, and the duck confit was nice (but didn’t seem to add a lot in terms of flavour – more so texture). Once again, he felt like the goat cheese was lacking and would have improved the already solid dish greatly if there was more of it.

Shrimp and Spinach Risotto (normally $20)

“creamy spinach risotto infused with pesto, parmesan cheese and studded with fresh asparagus, then topped with garlic butter shrimp” 

RisottoFor my main, I ordered a shrimp and spinach risotto. The risotto was a beautiful green colour and had a rich, creamy consistency. On its own, the rice had a subtle but delicious flavour and was the perfect base to the plump and zesty prawns. The huge serving left me satisfied and with ample leftovers for lunch the next day.

Any Irish readers will be shocked by the size of the prawns pictured – this seems to be the standard “shrimp” size in North America. Unfortunately they’re not as flavourful as the ones we get on the other side of the Atlantic. Still delicious, but I found myself craving some stronger flavours.


Dessert:

White Chocolate and Lemon Cheesecake (regular price not listed)

IMG_5469
For dessert, we split the lemon cheesecake. The sour lemon was exactly what we both needed after rich meals, and balanced great with the thin layer of chocolate. It was served à la mode, which made it all that much better.


Service

The Augusta House really came into its own for service.  We were seated quickly and able to order drinks and an appetizer promptly, even though it was extremely busy and there was only one server on duty.

The waitress was friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, and we never were made to feel rushed while deciding and weren’t left waiting once we had. Our one minor problem was that it was quite chilly inside. Otherwise, very good service.


The Final Word

We really enjoyed eating at The Augusta House. The food was great, and the service was excellent. We thought the beer selection could use an improvement. It is worth noting, however, the price of items. While we both really enjoyed the food we had, we felt it was just a bit overpriced. The beer was definitely priced too high, and our mains were just a bit high. If The Augusta House could maintain the same quality at a couple of dollars below their current prices, that would be excellent and we’d be much more likely to eat there more often.

Overall, we give The Augusta House four out of five hammers.

4_silver

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