Lunch today started with sweetbreads. Then chicken liver mousse and smoked duck hearts with muscat grape jelly, and finally rabbit confit with crème fraiche. I know what you’re thinking: “So what fancy pants French restaurant in Hull were you in, missy?”
Well I wasn’t. I was in Hintonburg. At a sandwich shop. One that happens to serve sweetbreads as a side to its sandwiches —and there are only three on offer. Each comes with house-made buns (they are superb), and two of them filled with the offal bits. Sure I could have had the roast beef (with kimchi and sunchoke chips) but why go ho-hum when you can have hearts?
At Meat Press sandwiches come on their own – each one is seven bucks – or as a combo with a side (coleslaw, green salad, or mashed potatoes with sweetbreads), plus a featured house-made soda (lemon and orange – nice, bubbly, refreshing).
The sweetbreads might have been the star of the meal for me. Just two nuggets, hot and crunchy, milky soft and beautifully seasoned, plopped on nicely lumpy, slightly hot (could have been hotter) whipped potatoes. That side came with “The Birds” sandwich: chicken liver mousse spread like butter on both sides of the bun, topped with rounds of the house-smoked duck hearts, sweetened with grape jelly and greened up a bit with parsley and pea sprouts. Had the bun been a lesser beast, the ratio of bun to filling would have been too much, too little and irksome, though I wouldn’t have said no to a bit of lettuce for crunch.
The second sandwich was a plumper affair. Shredded rabbit confit was the star. Rabbit meat is often stringy and bland —those bunny legs, after all, are much used muscles. But cooking them slowly, in duck fat I presume, can yield luscious results, and these had that. That lusciousness was upped further with a crème fraiche ‘butter’ scented with cilantro, and given an added ‘crunch’ from broccoli florets bathed in brown butter. Yes it was rich. The coleslaw was ordered to cut the fat, and it did do that, but it was also pretty dull as coleslaws go.
This was a first, and mostly very successful, taste of the new Meat Press in Hintonburg, run by the team of Étienne Cuerrier (whom I encountered last at the Wakefield Inn, and possibly at Soif if my visits coincided with his term there) and his wife Myriam Campeau.
I’m looking forward enormously to the possibility of an evening menu (it’s a small, pleasant room in a very cool building), which I understand is in the works, once a liquor license is in the bag. For the time being, there are homemade sodas to quench a thirst.
Meat Press, 45 Armstrong Rd., 613-695-7737
Open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm, and Sunday brunch, 11:30am to 2:30pm