Reviewing the selection of Ottawa restaurants on Urbanspoon.com, I noticed The Manx (370 Elgin Street, Ottawa) was ranked number two. The restaurant also has over 1,000 votes with close to 90% approval rating which is excellent for a restaurant.
My wife and I headed over early for dinner to ensure to get a seat. We were glad we did as the place filled up quickly and during our meal several prospective customers entered, looked around and left for another place. Sadly, those customers probably had a better time than we did.
The Manx isn't exactly the easiest place to find despite being on Elgin Street next door to the Elgin Street Diner (which I have reviewed as well). I have probably walked by this little Pub a hundred times and didn't even know it existed. The only way I found this place was on Urbanspoon.com listings and with a little sleuthing using Google Streetview. The main issue in finding the location is because it is tucked away in a basement, thus the place lacks large signage and traditional restaurant windows like the diner next door.
We entered at 4:50 P.M. to a three quarter filled Pub. Sure the place was almost full when we arrived, but you would be to with about fifteen customers and three wait staff inside the setup of someones large recreation room with oversized bar. Yes the bar is oversized as it takes up a good portion of the room. Calling this place "cozy" is being generous. It was hard to hold a conversation due to how loud it was down there in The Manx's rec room. Yes I would call it a "rec room" as restaurant doesn't seem to fit as it is in the basement of a building and looks like someone's kitchy dimly lit rec room complete with bar set up. The lighting alone made the menues hard to read.
But first before you can obtain said menu, you have to be seated. We stood at the front door looking a little lost looking for a little direction like a sign that says "Please seat yourself" or "We will gladly seat you". Dumbfounded we decided to seat ourselves. Just as our behinds were about to sit down the pair of ladies that arrive after us were welcomed by one of the servers and shown to another table. and handed menues. The server stopped by our table and handed us the lunch menues.
We reviewed the lunch menues for five minutes. The waitress to came by and took our drink order and advanced to another table to gather their drink order. We were then waiting for the waitress to return with our drinks so we could place our order. Sadly, we were interrupted and inquired by a waiter if we would like to order drinks. Yes, he asked for drinks. We replied that the waitress had taken our order for drinks.
He said we had the menues for lunch and would be right back with dinner menues. We gladly gave him the menues and he went around to the other tables to pick up the other lunch menues. It was easily another five minutes before he returned. The maddening part was he decided to deposit the lunch menues in a cupboard somewhere and stop by a table with two ladies and baby. He spent the entire time there talking up the ladies and making googly eyes at the baby all the while holding the dinner menues he had promised the entire rec room he would be right back with the dinner menues which was far from the truth.
Eventually the waiter returned and handed us the one page double sided menues. We reviewed them only to find the exact same limited selection of items. The only difference between the lunch and dinner menues was each price had been raised by a dollar and the line: "See the chalkboard for the daily specials". We hunted for the daily specials on the chalkboards on the walls. Sadly these had drink specials and other items that were not specials. The menues themselves are quite limited as appetizers and main course items are on one side and the full drink menu is on the reverse. I at least had an option. My wife though was less than satisfied: "I felt forced to make a selection from a menu of items I didn't really care for." After not finding the specials,ordered what we originally had before the "switching menu" fiasco.
We flagged down another waitress who took our order without writing it down. Considering what we had just been through, I was worried what would happen next. Would the kitchen screw it up? Would the waitress come back two minutes later to ask what we ordered? Fortunately this part went right. She had everything memorized, but then again with such a limited selection and only two customers at this table it really is hard to forget what is ordered.
The Order: 1 Club Sandwich with Fries and a Coke and 1 Chicken Wrap with Fries and Ottawa's finest glass of tap water.
The food took about ten minutes to arrive at our table. Things started to look up as the plain white round dinner plates were filled with food.
The Club Sandwich platter I had was well put together. The sandwhich was split in two sections but was all there. Fresh chicken and vegetables were there. It tasted better and fresher than those at the Filly & Firkin in Aurora. The mayonaise was perfectly in sync with the lettuce, chicken, tomatoes and bacon. A true Pub Club Sandwich.
The fries I would hardly classify as "fries" in the McDonald's or Elgin Street Diner sense. These were actually potatoes wedged with the skin on and deep fried. I enjoyed them with a nice potato taste to the middle. The only concern was that, along with sandwich, there optically might not be enough fries to be filling. This feeling is also reinforced when you have just had the price of your meal jacked up due to a menu fiasco. But in the end the Club Sandwich and Potato wedge fries were sating in quantity and taste.
The Chicken wrap my wife said was o.k. but then again she was not happy in having to choose one of the five lesser evils for her meal. She also had the"fries" which she classified as being too greasy for her taste.
After finishing our meal we had to find a server, male or female, to flag down to obtain the bill. It took a little bit of a wait as the waiter always seemed to be working the room talking to the customers. The waiter was more interested in playing host to a rec room full of friends who came over for a special occasion than actually ensuring his paying customers were being served properly. We eventually flagged him down and he returned quickly with the bill. A total of $34.00 for a chicken salad wrap with fries, club sandwich with fries and a Coke? Seems a little much considering the atmosphere and poor service. Good thing we didn't need change for our bill as we probably would still be there as of this writing waiting for the change to arrive.
Overall, it is hard to believe that The Manx is rated number two on Urbanspoon.com in Ottawa. There are many more better places in Ottawa that have good food and way better service. Sure the food was fresh and had some variations on it that other restaurants do. But the unorganized service, overpricing, cramped and dark & loud rec room feel leave a lot to be desired.