Dessert First

Sticky Toffee Pudding at St. Francis

Tired of discovering a restaurant's delectable desserts after stuffing ourselves full of appetizers and entrees, we're on a mission to find the places where diners should order dessert first. After all, chicken roulade makes excellent leftovers. But ice cream made in-house? Not a chance.

A self-described "urban gathering place," St. Francis is one of those restaurants that's truly popular with every crowd. Whether it's happy hour or late in the evening, people of all ages can be seen enjoying wood-fired cuisine and hand-crafted cocktails (try the recently added Dark & Stormy). St. Francis has created such a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere that it's easy to hang out and relax there for hours on end. As if you need an excuse to stay longer, order dessert accompanied with another drink, linger over them for a while, and forget about any responsibilities nagging from the back of your mind.

Unless there's something impossibly decadent on the menu, it's hard to resist a classic Sticky Toffee Pudding. Sure, frosting can be great on a cake, but as far as toppings go, warm toffee sauce is a delicious and powerful competitor. There's something so homey about a sponge cake soaked with gooey, sticky, buttery caramel, and that makes this dish fit right in with the vibe at St. Francis.

All in all, there's nothing over-the-top amazing about this dessert, but it is everything that it's supposed to be - super, super rich. It's served with sweet cream gelato to help balance the dense, toffee-soaked cake (or "pudding"), which gets much of its deep flavor from dates. The sponge cake is appropriately dense from soaking up the toffee sauce, but it has a surprising (and dangerous) melt-in-your-mouth texture that makes it all too easy to scarf down. Go slowly, however, because otherwise in ten minutes you'll be sorry that you didn't.

There's only one real fallback about this dish: There's just one small scoop of gelato, but there ought to be enough to have some with every bite of pudding. On its own, the Sticky Toffee Pudding becomes too much too fast, and especially if two people are sharing the plate, the gelato disappears quickly.

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Dominique Chatterjee