Tavern 1903 occupies much of the accurately rebuilt Alberta Hotel on Jasper Avenue and, like the ingredients of a well-crafted cocktail, seamlessly combines history with suavity. Indeed, rich rooms dressed in dark woods evoke the "cuff links and cigars" masculinity of the establishment's namesake year, and yet are equally at ease with hip tunes and a chic crowd.
The evening air is a bit brisk at this point for an outdoor patio sort of supper, but auburn leaves and frost-tinged air have done little to diminish the din of diners within. An encyclopedic cocktail menu is the evening's launching point. Servers make wise recommendations for those unsure of what to order.
Goat Cheese Fritters are resplendent in richness, yet taste not of the deep fryer. Beets, pecans. and dates flank a small nest of greens that undercut the fritters' muted muskiness.
Burrata resembles an otherworldly egg: here, a bocconcini exterior protects a disarmingly smooth, buttery-cheesy center. Balsamic zig-zags and a tomato jam that tastes mysteriously of rosehips are assertive, yet floral, accouterments. A stoplight-hued jumble of tomatoes rides shotgun, and a quartet of oblong toasts seal the deal. Cheese-wrapped cheese cannot be anything but magical.
Cornbread with bacon butter diverge from heretofore Italian-esque cuisine into Soul Food territory, and beguiles with flecks of sunny peppers and whole, golden corn kernels. Bacon butter is unctuous - a dab will do - and is a most welcome change from regular butter. With cornbread, one must either go "whole hog" or not at all. Tavern 1903 did well to choose the former.
Butterscotch Pudding with Pretzel Struesel reimagins childhood flavours through adult eyes. A wee mason jar cradles velvety, slightly boozy pudding, but the pretzel crumbs are the real treat. Nutty, sugary, crunchy, and utterly addicting.
Though it remains highly unlikely that the original Alberta Hotel's well-heeled patrons dined upon such fare, Tavern 1903 does supreme justice to this grand edifice. 'Tis indeed a well-concocted cocktail of historical ambiance intermixed with thoroughly invented cuisine - shaken, not stirred.