Flour, Fantastic

Prep & Pastry is a sharp and charming addition to Campbell Avenue

The name may be a little strange but after a couple of meals at this Campbell Avenue cafe, we've come to the conclusion that Prep & Pastry is the ideal title.

After all, the first thing you notice as you walk in the door is a beautiful display of baked goods. They seem to call your name. And as you dig into your meal, it's obvious that much thought and time went into the preparation of the food. The presentation is poised, the dishes are unique and the flavors ring true. Prep & Pastry could easily become one of your favorite go-to places.

P&P serves only breakfast and lunch, with special times for high tea. There's a patio off to the side, a tiny spot for quick bites and an airy main room. As you may know, the venue has been home to many different restaurants over the years (I've reviewed at least two of them). Several have been very good but seemed to come and go quickly. Fingers are crossed that P&P can avoid the same fate.

For lunch, we ordered a cup of potato-bacon soup ($3), biscuits and gravy ($6) and The Dip sandwich ($9.50).

The soup came in an oversized coffee cup and was redolent with aromas of herbs and pork. It was a nice change to have a potato soup not be creamy. Lots and lots of thick shreds of pork belly and cubes of glistening potatoes floated in a broth that hinted of tarragon. This was a superb soup and would have easily worked as a light lunch.

The cheese biscuits and gravy should have been hotter but this was a fab version of a traditional dish. The biscuits were fork-tender and covered in a savory duck gravy with slightly spiced crumbles of sausage. This is a lick-the-plate clean kind of dish.

Another spin on tradition was "The Dip." True to the classic French dip, the good-sized sandwich consisted of tender beef, a crusty roll and au jus on the side. But here, the beef was thinly sliced tri-tip that had been slow-cooked, revealing true beefiness. The beef was topped with sliced tomatoes, a thick slice of perfectly melted Gruyere and fresh kale that was wilted a bit—in a nice way. The au jus was well-seasoned and rich (true au jus I'd say; not the overly salted bouillon found in so many places). Again, a memorable dish.

Service was upbeat on both visits. Water was at the table in a flash with smiles. Dishes were explained. Employees checked on us at regular intervals without being obnoxious. Lunch service was decidedly better, though part of the reason for slower service at breakfast was that five minutes before we walked through the door a group of 80 women had been there for a weekly breakfast. Tables were still askew and menus couldn't be located. Everyone was apologetic but it still took a long time to get our food.

The food suffered a bit, too. The sweet potato hash ($8.50)—a huge serving, mind you—fell short, but that might have been our fault. My dining companion opted not to mix in the tangy goat cheese that was served alongside. That certainly would've helped, but the dish still needed something. I'd like to try this dish again.

The pork belly beni ($9)—read Benedict—was great despite the overcooked poached eggs. The pork belly was perfectly crisp and the biscuits fluffy. The hollandaise lacked the zing that I love in this sauce but the dish was still delicious. I ate the whole thing and most certainly would order it again.

We also ordered some cookies and scones, and we weren't disappointed. (Full disclosure: One of our scones was on the house because of the delays from the kitchen.) The flavors of the crème brulee scone were surprising. The caramel came through but didn't overpower. The fruit scone was packed with blue and red berries that were fresh and juicy, like they'd been poured into the batter moments before. The texture was perfect in both scones: slightly crumbly and moist.

We took the cookies home for a later dessert. The chocolate chip was more chocolate chunk. All that was needed was a cold glass of milk. The salted caramel snickerdoodle was heavenly.

It should be noted that Prep & Pastry has high tea, and also has applied for a liquor license. The tea isn't a daily thing and you have to reserve a spot at least 24 hours in advance. The tea costs $16 and consists of three courses; scones, tea sandwiches and something chocolate.

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