TORONTO Patrick McMurray, champion oyster shucker and owner of Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill, opened authentic Irish pub the Ceili Cottage in Leslieville in late June. The cozy 60-seat space is comprised of two rooms. The cottage room, the oldest part of the structure, dates back to 1884. When McMurray took over the building, formerly a garage, he tore down the drywall to expose the ceiling beams and cracked stone walls. Relics from an old church in the city's west end fill the space. Church pews provide seating and an alter servers as the host table at the entrance.
The bar room, located to the rear of the building, is a narrow space with a long black bar made of Kilkenny stone imported from Ireland. An upright piano, draped in the Irish flag, sits at the end of the bar beside the deacon's bench. The pub offers music lessons, trivia nights, and live music and dancing.
There are 12 beers on tap, including craft beers and traditional staples like Guinness Stout, Kilkenny Cream, and Harp Irish Lager. And, contrary to many pubs, there is no deep fryer in the kitchen. The menu focuses on simple items liked cured meats, country ham, peat-smoked salmon, soups, mussels, sausages, meat pies, cheese, and fresh bread. All ingredients are either sourced locally or imported from Ireland. Oysters are shucked to order.
Dozens of oyster shells are embedded in the pavement outside the restaurant and a patio surrounded by a white picket fence seats 40 people in the warmer months. The Ceili Cottage is available for full buyouts.