City Pub is the new restaurant and bar that replaced North Quarter Tavern. The bones of the place are the same, with the central bar and surrounding dining tables. But some decorating touches have been added — royal blue paint, wood wainscoting over a tufted banquette along the back wall — that give it a traditional pub mien.
And the food is still above average, though not as creative as when NQT first opened. But then, in retrospect, that menu was probably too ambitious (and costly).
Yet there’s something about City Pub that just doesn’t seem to congeal. It lacks focus, and the staff don’t seem to have guidance to help them in finding the center. On both of my visits, I felt like everyone there would rather be somewhere else.
The menu is described on the restaurant’s website as featuring “classic and remastered pub favorites.” Indeed, you’ll find such things as fish and chips, cottage pie and the requisite burger, though I can’t say what has been remastered about any of the foods I tasted.
And I don’t know what made the appetizer called Dirty Chips dirty , and I certainly can’t tell you why a handful of chips fashioned out of yucca, sweet potatoes, parnsips and beets, served with a thick aioli, should cost $6.95.
Or why three wedges of grilled avocado served with iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, carrots and onions, the elements of the Avocado Lettuce Wraps appetizer, would command $8.95.
That Cottage Pie was a more reasonable — or at least less shocking — $15.95. It was an unremastered collection of tenderloin chunks with carrots and peas in a gravied sauce under a cap of mashed potatoes with melted cheddar. It was well seasoned and filling.
I liked the Pub Burger, though the patty seemed a bit smallish. But the unusually thick rashers of applewood smoked bacon gave it a nice smoky note, and the brioche bun was fresh.
It was served with lettuce leaf, red onions and a slice of yellow tomato, exactly the way the Chicken Sandwich was served. Perhaps we can say the chicken sandwich was a remastered Pub burger. I liked the thick-cut fries that were served with both sandwiches. They were meaty and seemed to have been hand cut.
The toppings were good and plentiful on the Block & Bleu flatbread, which included roast beef, provolone and gorgonzola on a doughy platform. Caramelized onions and a squizzle of horseradish sauce topped it off.
On the other side of City Pub is Bitters & Bottles, a cocktail lounge with a separate entrance and “bar bites” menu — separate vibe, too, with a posher, hipper decor — but the same owners. That would be Church Street Entertainment, which also operates downtown bars Latitudes, Chillers and Embers, among others. City Pub represents CSE’s breakout from the downtown core and also into a business that features food as much as drink.
That’s a completely different animal, and the customers expect something different, in service and in attitude, from a restaurant than they do from a cocktail lounge. I suspect management will eventually figure that out.
City Pub is at 861 N. Orange Ave., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily, including late nights until 2 a.m. most nights. The phone number is 407-652-0600.