WONDER AT WHITEHALL
A double dinner date with Her Majesty's British Consul General and his beautiful wife, Marketing Director for Beakerhead, could only be at Calgary's best new restaurant, Whitehall.
Owner and chef, Neil McCue, has chosen Il Sogno's old site in Calgary's Bridgeland neighbourhood as his Flagship establishment. Chef McCue was well established in the UK where he acquired a Michelin star for Curlew near Bodiam, East Sussex. His ties to Calgary go back to the days of opening Catch with Michael Noble.
Having a meal at Whitehall is mind blowing. Eat, enjoy, and savour everything on Whitehall's menu, and be thankful that we have access to food prepared this well in Calgary.
Over house-made bread served with whipped pork drippings and salted butter, our group of four quickly decided a strategy. We selected ten different dishes over three courses, so that we could share as many items as possible. For our starters, I took the advice from John Gilchrist and Dan Clapson and ordered Le1608 cheese soufflé ($16) and the mackerel ($17). We also added the Quebec foie gras and chicken liver pate ($20), with the fourth starter being the sous vide hen's egg atop smoked Sable Fish ($19).
Portions were generous for a first course and plenty for us all to taste. The paté for me was heavenly, so smooth and rich, and served with warm, toasted, house-made brioche. It was almost the texture of a mousse, presented in a perfect quenelle that only chefs can produce. While all the dishes were delicious, I particularly loved the balance in the mackerel, briny but lightly sweet. The soufflé was a cheese dream, and I was pleased it didn't have that "20 minute" qualifier to prepare. The hen's egg convinces me that I need a sous vide in my home kitchen, the way the yolk turns into a creamy sauce when broken is magic.
Our three mains arrived: beef, pork, and duck. My Aussie husband put The Ashes loss aside and shared with our British diplomat friend, the Alberta aged strip-loin for two, served with dripping chips, marrowbone, anchovy and radish salad ($75). Our Berkshire pork belly was served with turnips, smoked apple, black pudding and a side of Paris mash ($28). Our third main was a chestnut honey glazed duck breast, served with endive, orange, and marmalade potatoes ($30).
Every main served was both beautifully presented, but also delicious and unique. The duck had a pine perfume to it that reminded us of Christmas all over again. Our pork belly was juicy, trimmed from any unsavoury fat. The beef was prepared sous vide, so flavourful and tender. Our wine was a New Zealand Pinot Noir; I can't recall the producer, but it was good!
Oh my word, we were full. But being committed, we ordered three desserts to ensure we were respectful.
Nothing fell short on the dessert course, they are sweet but not cloying. Light, and still comforting. Named Ice Wine, this dessert is a warm soaked sponge with honey ice cream ($12). We also selected the coconut themed plate, with coconut cream, mandarin jelly, sticky dates, and snow ($12). Our third dessert had a base of rice pudding, with toasted nut milk mousse, caramel and crunchy flakes ($12).
Our evening at Whitehall became even better after we finished our meal; Chef McCue sat down with us for a few masculines, a.k.a. Koval gin and Fentiman's tonic.
He's a humble chef, but more than confident and capable in the kitchen: "I want to be known for leading by example. Respect the product."
Our food scene in Calgary may just achieve global status with Chef Neil McCue and his Whitehall Restaurant. Go for a business lunch, celebrate a good week, impress the toughest critic, or make a dinner date you'll never forget. A meal at Whitehall will turn anyone's day into extraordinary.
To book a table, go through Open Booking or via an online form.
Address: 24 4th St NE, Calgary, ample parking behind the restaurant and nearby
Hours: Mon-Fri Lunch 11:30am to 1:30 pm; Mon – Fri 5:30pm – late; Saturday 5:30 – late; and closed Sundays