It was back in December that I noticed that the former Rosewood Bistro in the Sherwood Forest Plaza at 1900 Dundas Street West donned an “Opening Soon” sign, soon to become the Erin Mills Pump and Patio. I made a mental note to return to the restaurant when it opened.

Fast-forward to February, when I found myself in a midterm daze. I cancelled my Winterlicious date to squeeze in extra time for homework. A few days later, I started to feel a bit guilty and a bit desperate to free myself from my desk. Out of my window, I saw the Erin Mills Pump beckoning me. In defiance, I decided to throw my textbooks aside (only for a couple of hours, I swear), gather a group of friends, and go out for drinks and dinner.

As I stepped into the restaurant, my stress slipped away. It’s a warm hideaway from the bleak winter outside, and feels like a ski lodge high up in a mountainous retreat. It’s cozy, somewhat luxurious, and welcoming. The service staff guided us to a table upstairs, overlooking the level below. There were beautiful flat-screen TVs in view, tuned to popular sports channels. For a Sunday night it was relatively busy, although I’m sure it was nothing compared to this time on a Friday or Saturday night.

It’s not long before we were asked what we’d like to drink. Two of us, myself included, are not exactly drinkers. We stuck to water. But that’s why I brought along my two other friends: one goes for an Old-Fashioned and the other a beer. I’m told that the beer selection is quite good, especially their domestic options, which include some uncommon local brands on tap.

The menu is your traditional pub fare but with an emphasis on quality. You’ll find a variety of starters, salads, sandwiches, burgers, pastas, wings, pizzas baked in a stone oven, and such entrees as NY striploin, fish and chips, and baby back ribs. There’s an impressive list of gluten-free offerings and a children’s menu, too. I decided to go for the baby back rib combo on offer that night, which includes a half-rack of ribs, six wings (in my case grilled suicide wings), coleslaw, and a side, for which I chose a garden salad with balsamic dressing. My dinner dates ordered the apparently famous Pump House sliders with sweet potato fries, the Genovese pizza, and the braised beef ravioli.

When our dishes arrived I was relieved to see the generous portions. The barbeque sauce on the ribs was sweet and tangy. And yes, they were indeed tender.  I didn’t feel the heat of the so-called “suicide wings” until I was given some extra sauce on the side. I liked the addition of dill to their house coleslaw, which was far from that sad mayonnaise-drenched stuff you can buy pre-packaged at grocery store takeout counters. The garden salad was typical and didn’t stand out, but the vegetables were fresh so it served its purpose as a nice, light addition to my heavy main.

I was glad one of my friends ordered the Pump House sliders—I’d considered getting them myself. My friend was not disappointed. They were stuffed with sliced Angus prime rib blanketed with melted mozzarella and enclosed in a hearty French baguette (or “French stick”, as the menu calls it). The sliders were served with plenty of au jus in a dish wide enough for dipping. He gave his sweet potato fries the thumbs-up as well. The Genovese pizza also went down well, and particularly the artichokes on top. My friend who ordered the ravioli, which came with two slices of baked garlic crostini, was pleased with her choice and praised the tomato sauce.

My friend with the pizza ordered a Dark ’n’ Stormy, which got his approval. With all this good food and the delightful atmosphere, I kept wishing Monday would never come. We were too full to get dessert, although the Pump had a selection of classic cakes including strawberry cheesecake and a chocolate lava cake. The bill was served with a handful of hard fruit candies.

I’ve always fantasized about finding my own “local”, and I think the Pump might just be it. While the prices are reasonable for the quality of food, they’re on the upper end of a student budget. However, a few drinks and appetizers wouldn’t put a big dent in your pocket, especially with the money you’d save on transportation (it’s only a 15- minute walk or a five-minute bus ride from campus). I’ll definitely be returning in the summer when the patio opens, and I’d also like to go for their 59¢ wing special on Monday nights.

Next time I go for dinner, I’m going to try either the blackened grouper sandwich or the Louisiana salad. More importantly, though, I must get to the beautiful bathroom on my next visit, which, amid the wonderful food and atmosphere, I completely missed out on.

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