The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - ALANA HUD­SON

Even if, like us, you miss the park­ing lot ad­ja­cent to The Pur­ple Pear while head­ing down Bar­ton and ap­proach­ing Gage, you’ll find am­ple street park­ing.

In­side the en­trance, the host counter in front of the coat closet was unat­tended so I did the honours. A server ar­rived quickly, and led us to our ta­ble. Even though it was post-hol­i­day, the din­ing room was al­most half-full on a week­day, sug­gest­ing to me that mak­ing a reser­va­tion is es­sen­tial on week­ends.

The Pur­ple Pear has been around since 1994, and, ac­cord­ing to their web­site, the restau­rant used to be Marin’s Steak­house, Hamil­ton’s first steak house, founded in 1948.

The din­ing room ap­pears to em­brace that his­tory, with dis­creetly el­e­gant decor scheme fea­tur­ing light yel­low walls, dark wood ac­cents and white table­cloths set with filled wa­ter glasses.

The servers worked as a team through the night and one man came over to take our drink or­der soon af­ter we sat down. A few On­tario wines were listed, in­clud­ing Joseph’s Es­tate, Cave Spring and Henry of Pelham, along with fa­mil­iar names from abroad (Wolf Blass from Aus­tralia, Bare­foot from Cal­i­for­nia).

We chose to share a half litre of Mer­lot Do­mini from Italy, their house wine, the only red op­tion that was not a whole bot­tle. It was fruit for­ward with­out be­ing overly tan­nic or sweet — a pleas­ant sur­prise. Our server kept the carafe on the side­board near the wall and did an ex­cel­lent job of keep­ing our glasses re­freshed.

While we sipped, a se­lec­tion of breads was brought out: mini cheese scones, gar­lic bread sticks, baguette. The scone was flaky with a hint of spice, the bread stick nice and soft and the baguette ten­der and warm.

The server came by to ask about ap­pe­tiz­ers, then said he would put those or­ders in and come back to talk about en­trées.

We re­laxed as a soft cover of John Len­non’s “Happy Christ­mas” came on, fol­lowed by other heart­felt ren­di­tions of car­ols through­out the night.

A new server set a bowl of sweet potato and pear soup be­fore my com­pan­ion, blan­keted in spots by a thin layer of frothed cream. Though the deep aubergine of the Pur­ple Pear’s logo was not ev­i­dent any­where other than the front of the menu, pears popped up ev­ery­where: in paint­ings on walls, on side­boards along with other fruit, and in many of the dishes.

I have a fear that most fruit soups are go­ing to be more like dessert than a pre­am­ble to a meal but this one was de­light­ful, if a lit­tle sweet.

The French onion soup was served in a small white ter­rine, cov­ered dra­mat­i­cally with puff pas­try. Al­though I pre­fer crustier bread, the soup it­self was quite nice, a good full beefy broth with onions that melted in my mouth. Cheese with a lit­tle more char­ac­ter could have el­e­vated this dish even fur­ther.

These were promis­ing starts and as an­other new and slightly more se­nior mem­ber of the team came to clear our plates, he asked how ev­ery­thing was. We quickly found out that it was Vic­tor Buc­cella, the owner, and pep­pered him with ques­tions. He said he opened the place 14 years ago, af­ter work­ing in a ho­tel for years be­fore that. He joked that peo­ple thought his choice of lo­ca­tion was not great in the be­gin­ning but now they think he’s a vi­sion­ary.

A few min­utes went by and our orig­i­nal server brought over a Cae­sar salad to share. The ba­con bits, a tad soft, could have been crisped up. The dress­ing, while nice, could have been el­e­vated by more gar­lic and an­chovy. No quib­bles about the crou­tons, though, made from a toasted slice of baguette, crunchy with a hint of gar­lic.

There was no lag in our meal — a wide bowl of seafood lin­guine came right out. The sauce was not su­per flavour­ful but there was a ton of nicely cooked pasta and seafood, in­clud­ing seared scal­lops, mus­sels, clams and shrimp, all sea­soned nicely.

My com­pan­ion’s veal chop ar­rived on an ob­long plate with sautéed green beans and zuc­chini on the side, as well as a potato cro­quette, amus­ingly shaped as a pear. Ev­ery­thing was cooked to per­fec­tion and the veal was in­cred­i­bly ten­der.

Then, two desserts, one of which con­nected with my in­ner child. First a nice lemon souf­flé that was a bit too sweet for me. But then a large prof­ite­role was set be­fore me, topped with plenty of cho­co­late sauce and filled with French vanilla ice cream. It filled all of my sweet tooth re­quire­ments.

I like that the Pur­ple Pear em­braces dishes that some might call con­ser­va­tive rather than go­ing mod­ern just for the sake of go­ing mod­ern. It was clas­sic, done well.

Alana Hud­son has cooked at Le Bernardin, Vong, and Avalon.

Pur­ple Pear: dis­creetly el­e­gant decor.


The prof­ite­role, left, filled all of my sweet tooth re­quire­ments. The veal came with a potato cro­quette that tasted as good as it looked.

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