Maple Leaf
41 Maiden Lane
Covent Garden
Westminster WC2E 7LJ
Unbelievable. When you want things to go wrong, they just turn out to be perfectly acceptable. Edo has been travelling and got back that very day; we agreed we would meet in Covent Garden Piazza, walk to The Maple Leaf, concur the place is a dump and hardly any food is available/edible, leave without thinking twice and go to the lovely Moroccan in Seven Dials or to the not-very-popular-but delicious Italian on Monmouth Street. At least, that was my plan. I even dressed up nicely, just in case. Guess what? We walk into the pub and: no stink of beer-soaked wooden tables, no drunk noisy people (and it was peak time) behaving like cercopithecus, no pushing or squeezing to get to the bar and order and no steam running down the window panes. On top of that, they have a menu, an ok selection of wines, beers for every taste and the staff is quick, efficient, friendly and totally switched on. SHIT! All the tables were taken (I still had hope!) but a couple stood up and left before we had time to say “Canada”! I had no choice but to give in, sit down and pick something from the - AHA! – sticky list. Exactly what you would expect: suitable pub food. Something fried, something breaded, something grilled and…Nachos! Poutine (aka chips & gravy with cheese on top) was there, but unfortunately no beaver tail. NO, it isn’t the actual tail but a flat, sweet, obviously fried, dough you can smear with Nutella, or jam, or cream…well, you name it. We went for the mix platter with poutine, ribs, breaded prawns, onion rings, etc and a Caesar Salad. Beer: Moosehead and India Pale Ale.

Service was prompt, food exactly WHAT we ordered AS we ordered it, portions on the generous side, spacious tables and comfortable benches. Nevertheless I’ve decided I want to find a reason to be grumpy and fussy and this is my complaint: croutons in my salad not crunchy, poutine should come with curd cheese not cheddar, no maple syrup on the menu, décor a little Disneyesque and bill too reasonable for a pub in Theatre Land. Terrible: the night was a success. We didn’t even have to wait for the bus to get home; it was already there and we jumped on. SIGH!

  • Food: 2.5
  • Ambience: 2.5
  • Service: 3
  • Value: 3
  • Overall: 2.75
I feel relieved to be writing about this one. Monica had been a bit of scaremonger in this particular case, having spent the last two weeks relaying the most dreadful reviews she’d found on London Eating. Reality was far, far better. Don’t expect a gem here but at least it is a place I may, in a far-fetched but not impossible scenario, set foot in outside the context of the mission. It’s been a while since the last one of this kind.

This is the Canadian hangout in London: sadly there was no choice (again). To begin with it’s in Covent Garden: central, noisy and impossibly touristy but at least a known part of the world. The place itself is a Canadian-themed sports pub, not a proper restaurant in the classical sense, but perfectly acceptable for the mission. It certainly ticks the National Identity box: Canadian flag, Canadian beer, Hockey kit on the walls, hockey on TV, log wood walls. In fact the Canadian-ness is so overdone it feels like Dysneyland to the European eye – however I have been to places in Canada that look exactly like that. It is cleaner than the average WC2 pub, which is to say just acceptable. Patrons were the typical after-work Central London crowd, rather civilised, not too noisy.

Food is essentially pub food with made-up Canadian-sounding names. There is hardly anything typical except poutine and there are no dishes whatsoever containing maple syrup. That was a bitter disappointment. In rating the food I have to consider the utter lack of authenticity as a strong negative. To not make the effort of having at least a dessert with maple syrup on it is astonishing.

Monica had a Ceasar Salad (very Canadian) whilst I went for the mega-platter (called maple, no maple), which we ended up sharing.

The platter contained: ribs, wings, battered prawns, nachos, corn on the cob, onion rings, and poutine. The latter is the only Canadian food we had and is in essence chips and gravy with bits of cheese on top. Hardly haute cuisine. All the food was acceptable, the wings being the best (great crispiness and juiciness) and the corn being the worst (sticky and grainy).
We had two Canadian beers: a bottle of Moosehead lager and a pint of India Pale Ale. I loved the latter, it is the classic North American version of ale, nicely balanced, you can feel the malt but it’s still very drinkable. The Moosehead was also a typical North American lager, i.e. a tasteless summer drink.

Service was speedy and corteous. I had a feeling the waitresses are used to very, very busy nights during weekends; we went on a random quiet Thursday and it looked like they could do it blindfolded.

The bill was £27, the meal was huge, quality acceptable, the environment pleasant, service good with no sparks, so on the whole reasonable value for money for a sports pub.

Shame the food was not really Canadian: I love Canada and I know there is some great food there, I was hoping to find a least a glimpse of that, or that, and not what looked like
Epcot Center’s Canadian-themed pub.

  • Food: 2
  • Ambience: 2.5
  • Service: 2.5
  • Value: 2.5
  • Overall: 2.37