The Manx (370 Elgin Street, Ottawa - No Website)
A Manx is a breed of cat known by its short or absent tail. The Manx on Elgin street is a pub-style restaurant located in a basement, represented by an image of three legs forming a sort-of wheel with the motto 'wherever we land, we stand'. Clever. I don't immediately see the connection though (perhaps someone could explain it to me), but this restaurant has garnered quite the reputation, and obviously has a leg up on the competition. Located in a basement, it is indeed cosy, adorned with tall tables, dark wood pillars, and cosy couches. It is also quite popular. If you don't go early for breakfast, you'll either find yourself waiting for a table, or abandoning the idea altogether and heading across the street to the Lieutenant's Pump or Elgin Street Diner.
There is no doubt in my mind that The Manx serves the ugliest looking omelettes in the world, and that's being polite. Overcooked on the outside, undercooked on the inside, and totally falling apart, it reminded me of a frittata folded in half. I was actually surprised that the taste actually came through; the omelette was non-greasy, non-salty, leaving the overt taste of fresh vegetables to shine. Not exactly my definition of 'ideal Saturday morning breakfast', believe me, but I didn't feel the need to take a quick 5Km run to work it off later in the day. The side of garlic lumpy mashed potatoes was a great alternative to traditional home fries, but I found myself weary of them after a few bites. There is no denying that they are dense, and if it wasn't for the amazing in-house hot sauce offered by our server, I would have completely given up on them.
I loved the clear glass coffee mugs, as well as the table-top cream. The raw sugar would have been another nice touch, but it was rock solid and wouldn't pour out. I wouldn't say that I love The Manx, it doesn't actually even make my top ten, but that honestly says more about me and my preferences than that of the restaurant itself.
For locals, the Manx is a well-known and loved brunch spot on weekends. In fact, it’s not uncommon to walk by on a Saturday or Sunday morning and see a line-up out the door. That is, if you can locate the door. Housed in the basement of an old apartment building, underneath a sheet music library, The Manx is not an easy restaurant to find: the sign is small and dark, and the door is virtually invisible from the street. In order to enter this cozy pub, one must walk down a nondescript staircase that has a covering over it, and enter through a heavy wooden door that is not particularly easy to open. And if you manage to get so far as to enter the restaurant, you’ll see why there are lines out the door: there is only a smattering of tables about. They’ve done their best with the space, but a tiny basement restaurant can only hold so many guests. And usually I would find these inconveniences annoying and frustrating, but when it comes to The Manx, I’m actually glad that it’s so difficult to find. I’d like to think that the hidden nature of this restaurant and its limited size keep away the hordes which would surely be knocking down the doors otherwise.
You see, the Manx offers up some of the most distinguished breakfast dishes on the friendly side of $20. You don’t only get an omelette; you get a creative masterpiece of fresh ingredients and inventive combinations that will leave you wanting more. On this particular morning, we were lucky: we arrived just when the restaurant opened and got our choice of most tables in the place. And at a tiny table in the corner of the pub, I had a pretty good breakfast. I like sandwiches, and I like breakfast, but usually I don’t like the two together, with very few exceptions. But when I saw an egg sandwich on the menu with avocado slices in it, I was enamoured! The lightly toasted bread housed a perfectly cooked egg with still-gooey yolk that didn’t run, just enough lettuce and tomato to taste, and several thick slices of ripe avocado. On the side was a dollop of mashed potatoes with the skin still on, which I thought improved both the taste and the character of the dish. The service was fairly slow for so early in the day, but we were happy to relax and take in the surroundings.
I liked the food at the Manx, and the atmosphere was cozy and inviting, but I think my favourite part was the old character of the place. I had a cup of tea to go with my breakfast, which came in a well-used and scratched glass mug accompanied by a little brown teapot. So ugly, but somehow charming. Artwork on the walls was obviously done by a local amateur artist: not amazing, but it fit well. Each detail of the service, the art and the décor contributed to make The Manx as full of life and character as the building in which it was housed, and the neighbourhood in which it stands. And that’s not something you see everyday.
(Click to enlarge pictures)