In honour of my birthday, my friend and I made the trek from Oakville to Niagara-on-the-Lake in search of an enjoyable lunch prepared by aspiring professional chefs. Upon arrival, we found both the visitor parking and the dining room filled to capacity due to March Break. Nevertheless, we lucked in to a vacant parking spot just as we entered the lot AND our reserved table was situated right beside the window of the Benchmark Restaurant's octagonal glass dining room. So far, so good.
As a starter, I ordered a small plate of Mussels with NC Ale in Chipotle Cream, which was so delicious that I quickly discarded the bread and ate the sauce with a spoon. My friend's yummy quesadilla app featured adobo, smoked chicken and cheese with Pico de Gallo sauce so she was pretty happy too.
In our estimation, the main course selections seem a little too "pubby" to be representative of a culinary school. Options include a flank steak sandwich, reuben sandwich, lobster mac & cheese, smoked chicken havarti panini, Vietnamese Pho, a Thai curry, a veggie stew and the selection we both settled on: fish and chips. The battered haddock and fries were well cooked and tasty but the serving was enormous - two people could easily share it. (And some raw veggies would be a welcomed addition!)
Dessert options included a bread pudding, a lime meringue tart, and an apple crumble. My friend chose the lime tart and found the lime curd too sweet given that it was topped with sweet meringue. The shortbread pastry tart had not been cooked enough to become dry so it was difficult to cut.
Service was attentive and charming from the front of house manager to our wait staff. Water was promptly replenshed by bashful, smiley people.
Returning to my car, I was dismayed to find a $25 parking ticket because I had not parked (and could not park) in the restaurant visitor parking and didn't know there was a charge where I had parked. (The attendant was not on duty in the booth). I contacted the parking authority there to explain the situation and asked for leniency but was turned down flat. If you visit this restaurant, make sure that you understand the parking rules before leaving your car. There is even a 30 minute parking limit for restaurant customers, which seems preposterous.
Reservations are required so be sure to call ahead.
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