On Harvard Ave, close to the Coolidge Corner movie theater, tucked next to a Gap and a lawyer’s office, is a restaurant called The Regal Beagle. I was intrigued by this name every time my roommates and I wandered up Harvard Ave in search of late night, post-GoT watching ice cream, and I’ve always wanted to try it. How exactly can a beagle be regal?, I thought. And what the hell does a sovereign dog with floppy ears have to do with food? So naturally, when Gabby and I planned a date night to the Coolidge Corner theater, I insisted that we try it out. Much to my dismay, nothing about this place was regal, let alone delicious, and there was a disturbing lack of beagles inside.
Almost exactly a year ago, I had a subpar steak and in true millennial generation fashion, decided to express my feelings on the Internet. So Gabby and I started this blog. And here I am, just a few weeks shy of our blogiversary, once again lamenting a sad excuse for a steak dinner.
The outside of the restaurant has two windows, a large but rather unassuming sign proclaiming the intriguing name, and a tiny little door set back from the street. All the times I walked by, I could never really tell what the feel of it was like on the inside. Much like the majority of my food, the ambiance inside was nothing like I expected — and not in a good way.
Inside was dark and quite loud. The wood floors were dark, the furniture a similar almost-black shade of wood, and the walls were paneled with a dark red wood. The chandeliers and sconce lighting on the walls did very little by way of illumination; the TV over the bar was the brightest thing in the room. The whole room was long and narrow, with a large mirror on the left wall that seemed like a desperate attempt to make it all look wider and lighter but in fact only served to reflect the darkness back on us. One of the waitresses brought candles around – one for each table – about halfway through our meal, but they did very little other than almost catch my sleeve on fire.
Our fellow diners were a strange mix of the after-work drink crowd, what seemed to be an office party of some kind at the back, and Brookline families with young children.
Our waiter was very nice but very quiet. Although whether that was his voice or just the nature of the room was unclear. Either way, it was hard to hear/understand him at times which made ordering clumsy and awkward. The rest of the wait staff was lively, however, and the bartender was clearly in an excellent mood. Our table was back by the bar and I consistently found myself distracted by the bartender’s enthusiastic drink shaking and loud, energetic voice. I found myself wishing he could have waited on us instead; he was obviously happier about being at work than our waiter was and his positive energy was infectious.
Let me begin this section by saying I will not be returning to The Regal Beagle, and that is mainly because of this experience with the food. I will now commence into rant mode and if that’s all you wanted to glean from this review, and you want to be spared the gory details of said rant, skip on down to the drinks section; they were not nearly as offensive as what I ate.
First, the appetizers. Much to Gabby’s dismay, I am not a fan of raw food (I just think that man invented fire so that they could cook their meat and this whole reversion back to raw food is just damn unnatural — but that’s a rant for another time). So when she wanted to order the tuna crudo, I decided to order a slice of cornbread so we could both have an appetizer that we liked. On the menu, and I cannot stress this enough, the cornbread was listed on the sides section as simply cornbread. So you can imagine my surprise when I was served a crumbly, dry piece of bread with melted plastic-tasting cheese smothered on top and large chunks of jalapeno inside. Now, despite my California roots, I am not a fan of jalapenos, especially in my cornbread. I am also not a fan of surprises when it comes to my food. This combination was served to me on a plate and I was, needless to say, unhappy. Perhaps I’m spoiled, but I like my cornbread moist and slightly sweet, with corn chunks if anything. Jalapenos belong on tacos, not in cornbread.
Gabby enjoyed her crudo, though, so apparently the simple stuff that requires little to no effort to prepare, the chefs can pull off perfectly.
I figured I would try to be safe and order the steak. The rest of the menu options were quite adventurous in the flavor pairings and I wanted to enjoy my dinner — steak and potatoes it was. Where the cornbread had too much of the wrong flavor, the steak lacked flavor altogether. It was cooked to my specifications, but when the accompanying squash has more taste to it than the meat, you know something’s wrong. The potatoes were excellently seasoned and the squash was sweet and delicious, but somewhere in the prep line in the kitchen, I’m assuming someone forgot the marinade step. The steak tasted like nothing, not even salt. It was actually incredible, the lack of flavor. Gabby suggested to me that the flavor was intended to come from the milky gray sauce that covered the meat (she called it gravy, – the jury’s still out on that one), but even so, the sauce had no flavor either.
Gabby’s lamb was tender and sweet, which was good to begin with, but the more she ate, she said, the more cloying and lingering the sweetness became until it was too much. Dinner should not taste like dessert.
Speaking of dessert, we went for the simplest option – almost laughably simple, something my sister used to make when she was a child, and definitely not something we should have paid $10 for — a S’more sundae. The other viable options on the dessert menu were a crustless cheesecake (why go without the best part of the cheesecake??), and a molten chocolate cake that’s similar to what we always seem to order. The S’more sundae, which was vanilla ice cream topped with hot fudge, graham cracker crumbles, and marshmallow fluff, seemed like the safest option. It was fine, nothing special, but at least they didn’t mess it up.
Overall, the menu seemed like it was created by either a completely inexperienced chef who doesn’t understand the idea of flavor complements, or by a chef who was trying so hard to be experimental and different, that they missed the mark entirely.
One of our favorite cocktails to share is the Old Cuban. We’ve previously had excellent ones at Gaslight, and Gabby’s father’s rendition is still Gabby’s favorite, but we always like to try them when they’re available. So of course, once we saw them on the menu at the Regal Beagle, we promptly ordered two. They weren’t nearly as good as the ones at Gaslight, but they weren’t horrible. Our after-dinner wine order, however was quite sad. Gabby ordered a cabernet and I ordered a chardonnay and we both agreed we could have purchased better wine at the cheap liquor store across the street from our apartment.
The prices, when the extremely poor quality of the food is taken into account, were horribly over the top, but compared to other places we’ve eaten they were pretty standard. Nothing too exorbitant, but definitely not worth it. This place falls under our Classy Date Night category, although I strongly discourage you from bringing any kind of date here if you like them even a little bit.
Because the Old Cubans and the S’more Sundae were halfway decent, I’ll give this place a 3. I would not recommend this place; I was very much disappointed in every aspect of the experience. Despite the excellent name choice, if it weren’t for my lovely dinner company, and the excellent movie we saw afterward (everyone go see Love Is Strange, it’s beautiful), the night would have been a total bust.
The Regal Beagle, 308 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA