Standing on the corner of King and Erb Steet East, The Symposium Café, Restaurant, and Lounge has held its place within Waterloo as a primo date night location and it’s not hard to see why. Walking into the restaurant that is an instant Tardis (way bigger on the inside than it seems on the outside), the place screams simulated, romanticized European café — fake dried flowers wilted in ornate vases accented by gigantic figurative paintings with wine bottles of indeterminable origin lining the walls at every opportunity. As the blender interrupted the moderately empty restaurant’s chatter amidst flickering indie and jazz music, the server took my order and offered me a cake tour at the end for dessert (which frankly sounded like the most fun a server has ever proffered me).</p>
Beginning with the haddock sandwich, it was definitely impressive with a huge mound of haddock with tartar sauce dripping enticingly down it. However — oh, how shall I begin… The promised “toasted kaiser roll” was disappointing, disintegrating barely halfway through the sandwich, and tasting rather untoasted and unloved for that matter. The fries were nothing special. The fish was crumbly and although cooked decently, the oily and unsatisfying breading that held no trace of Parmesan separated from the fish far too quickly, so much so that I ended up having to use a fork and knife (note: if you are automatically handed a fork and knife for a sandwich, something is very, very wrong). Honestly, I strongly believe that this sandwich fulfilled the bare requirements for one of its kind, and I couldn’t help but think about the waste in the production process and natural ingredients that went into making the disappointment that was this sandwich, as it sadly ended up so unflavourful and unimaginative. My stomach acids literally curdle just thinking about how bad this $13 sandwich was, which I found second- worst only to the Filet-o-Fish at McDonald’s.
After this catastrophic disaster that we shall never speak of again, I walked up to the dessert bar with my server, and it was immediately clear what this restaurant should specialize in. Beautiful, sky-high cakes adorned the glass case, and although there were many chocolate varieties, I chose the waitress’s recommended hummingbird cake: a banana cake concoction with pineapple separated by layers of cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut. The antithesis to the earlier catastrophe, being sweet but not too much so, the cake was perfectly complemented by drizzled chocolate, maraschino sauce, and whipped cream on the side. In fact, the only knock I’d give the cake was that the embedded pineapple was a touch too subtle against the banana cake, but it did provide an interesting texture. I finally found myself warming up to the establishment.
It was funny how this dessert changed my entire perception of the place, and walking out, I observed all of the different tables’ orders; 90 per cent of the tables all held cake, and Symposium’s large, laminated menu seemed so pointless in light of how well the dessert bar could sustain itself. However, at $10 per slice, even a slice of cake seems questionable especially since service was slow, albeit pleasant. With 22 locations, Symposium and its legion of restaurants may not be going anywhere anytime soon, but I say that unless you’re desperate for a date night spot, I would personally bring my wallet somewhere else.