It is a truth universally acknowledged that the British are not known for their cuisine.
After all, bangers and mash, or bubble and squeak, or even fish and chips just haven’t stormed the world in the way that, say, Italian food or Mexican flavors have done.
And yet, with my family planning a trip across the pond this summer, we thought we’d better give the kids a taste of Great Britain, beyond just reruns of The Great British Baking Show on Netflix.
On an early spring night we ventured to The Toffee Club, a newish spot on lower Hawthorne Boulevard that looks suspiciously pub-like (read: NOT kid-friendly) from the outside. But as soon as we walked in, we spotted a toy corner with a handful of wooden toys, books, crayons and paper for drawing — a good omen. (And the bathroom had a spacious changing table, another plus.)
More good news at the counter, where we placed our order (add this to the list of order-at-the-counter restaurants in the Portland area, our favorite dining trend for eating out with kids): There’s a gently priced kids’ menu, including a “toddler plate” with small nibbles of cheese, bread and fruit for $5, a mini serving of fish and chips for $6, a half-sized grilled cheese sammie for $5 and two scoops of ice cream for $3.
Our food came quickly, and my daughter’s order of fish and chips arrived with some minty mashed up peas on the side, a welcome touch of green, plus tartar sauce for dipping, which she eschewed in favor of ketchup. The “chips” are true British-style thick-cut potatoes, and she chowed down; the fish was properly crispy and light. I went for the steak-and-ale pie ($17) which was terrific — warm and comforting, and not so enormous that I was overfull — and came with more of those peas plus a side of peppery mashed potatoes. My son, unfortunately, was zero percent interested in going full British and stuck with a hamburger, which he pronounced “fine.”
If I’d had a more adventurous eater along, we could have tried the true English delicacies on the menu, including pork pies, which the menu described as “pork meat in short crust pastry, served cold,” and a scotch egg (a softboiled egg wrapped in pork and toasted breadcrumbs, for the uninitiated.) Vegetarians have options, too — there are salads, soups, and the veg-only Sir Stanley pie.
Along with the food and friendly atmosphere, the big draw at The Toffee Club is soccer — excuse me, footie, as the Brits would say — a good fit in our Timbers-crazy town. There are several TV screens positioned around the room for optimal viewing of matches beamed in from around the world, and a dedicated screening room in the back, plus soccer-related paraphernalia as decor. My son and my husband ate quickly so they could resume playing darts in a cozy nook at the back of the dining room; there’s also a foosball table for whiling away the time.
The Bottom Line Make for The Toffee Club next time you’ve got a hankering for some true British pub grub, and bring the kids. Maybe someone in your party will be brave enough to order that scotch egg?
Fit for the Royals
Portland has several places to grab a taste of the UK:
British Overseas Restaurant Corporation on North Williams has some more exotic choices, including kedgeree and Edwardian fish cakes. britishoverseasrestaurant.com.
Best of British tea shop in Beaverton in a tucked-away location offers a fantastic English tea service, perfect for a special treat with the kids. bestofbritish.biz.
The Frying Scotsman is a downtown food cart that specializes in fish and chips done right. (They’ve got haggis too, just in case.) Great choice for lunch after a trip to the Central Library. the-frying-scotsman-portland.sites.tablehero.com.