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Last name: man of kent
Contact: 202 Ossington Avenue, @manofkentpub
Piece: Trinity Bellwoods
Owner: Lawrence Bill
Chief: Adam Squires
Accessibility: There is a step at each entrance, but they can put out a ramp to help people get in

The food

Disclaimer: This is a UK story, so it is of course football (er, football). In 2021, Man of Kent showed the European Cup. England went all the way to the final to lose in typically English and heartbreaking fashion, falling to Italy in a shootout.

At the time, Adam Squires, supplier of popular meat pies, worked across the street at La Cantina. Hailing from Bournemouth, Squires couldn’t help but sneak in to watch matches with his fellow Brits. It was then that he met Lawrence Bill.

The two expatriates hit it off immediately. They both come from the south of England. Both worked in the restaurant industry. And both hail from Newcastle United. In fact, they had so much in common that Bill thought something was wrong. “I had to ask to make sure he wasn’t an inspector,” he said. “I thought the government had sent someone for me.”

Bill (left) and Squires. These guys could be characters in a Guy Ritchie movie

But it was just a happy coincidence that led to a collaboration. Last St. Patrick’s Day, Squires baked his pies in the Man of Kent kitchen and sold them to bar patrons. It was a resounding success. “We sold out in two or three hours,” says Bill. “It went so well, we were like, ‘Okay, let’s do this every weekend.'”

Every Saturday when English football was on TV they did a pop-up. “We just kept selling,” says Bill. By May, Squires’ pies were appearing five days a week, so the two designed an extensive menu and negotiated a permanent partnership. Bill offered Squires an annual salary and a share of the business.

In the future, Bill and Squires want to take their food to the next level, like mass-producing frozen pies in an industrial kitchen and selling them in major grocery chains. Bill expects this to happen as early as October.

Here is the traditional fish and chips, served with homemade tartare, mashed peas and lemon. Is it as good as the stuff in England? “I’ll be honest, it wouldn’t be as good,” Bill said. “Most Brits who come say it’s better than their chippy at home.” $16/$22

A classic Scottish egg, hard-boiled in sausages and breadcrumbs. $10

Of course, pies are Squires’ specialty. You can choose between beef and beer or chicken and leek, served with mashed potatoes, mashed peas and sauce. $16

Keep it healthy with a traditional English garden salad. There’s gem lettuce, tomato, cucumber, radish, peas and potato, tossed in a mustard vinaigrette. $9/$16

Peach pie with vanilla ice cream. Squires roasts peaches in brown sugar and wraps them in shortcrust pastry. After that, he crimps the sides and frys the batter until golden brown. $9

But it does not stop there. Other options include:

  • A fish stick sandwich. “It’s a bit like McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish,” says Bill. “We let people decide if they want to add American cheese.” $12.
  • A ploughman’s plate of smoked ham, raw vegetables, cheddar, stilton, pickles, chutney and a baguette to share. $18.
  • Breaded house pickles. $7.
  • Butty chips: hand-cut chips and mashed peas on buttered brioche bread. $8.
  • Pea fritters served with a cucumber-mint dip. $8.
The drinks

There is beer, of course, including Guinness. “There are only a few places in town that know how to pour a Guinness properly,” says Bill. “We use a separate gas line, with more nitrogen, which gives it the right flavor and texture.” But there are also local options, like Left Field Brewery’s Greenwood IPA. “I wanted to have more local brewers on tap, especially post-pandemic,” says Bill. “We all went through the same thing.” The cocktail menu includes a paper airplane (with a very impressive bird-shaped lemon zest garnish), a gin and prosecco highball called Purple Empress (“It’s like an Aperol spritz with a little extra zip,” says Bill), and the Crown Float, which layers Guinness on prosecco.

Space

The bar is named after Bill, who comes from a town called Hythe, just south east of Kent. He first came to Toronto in 2008 to play cricket. (He was a wicketkeeper – a position that seems to have been pulled straight from the pages of Harry Potter but is similar to a baseball wide receiver.) After retiring from cricket, Bill had an interest in a barbershop, which is now a tattoo shop.

Then, in 2013, he heard of a cheap space to rent on Ossington, so he got into the bar game. Bill grew up in the UK bar scene and wanted Man of Kent to feel like a representation of his home. He didn’t think Man of Kent had to be a super-chic, over-the-top royal pub, with pictures of kings and queens. But he also didn’t want it to look like a rundown estate pub. So he found a tasteful middle ground: wooden floors, black painted walls, antique chandeliers, a Banksy print and a painting of a ship battling a storm.

“It’s become a little hub for people from the community, creatives and people who work in restaurants, to come and have a few drinks,” Bill says. “We definitely have the drink and party vibe. But it’s nice to have a full time menu now, a wholesome element that holds it all together.