Once you step inside, there is no doubt you've walked into a British pub. Magical Meat Boutique, a downtown Mount Dora favorite, has built a loyal following of local residents and Central Florida's British community in just two short years.
The small pub has excellent draft brews poured through extra-cold taps imported from England and also boasts traditional British fare.
In addition to generous British breakfasts, there is also shepherd's pie, bangers and mash, and fish and chips, plus a generous hand-carved turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce and stuffing served throughout the year. For those who find bold flavors more exciting, Magical Meat Boutique also serves flavorful ethnic favorites common in England. The meaty and perfectly crisp duck wings, arguably the best in the area, are served on a bed of prawn crackers with an Asian drizzle. On the lighter side the restaurant offers a fresh pear and gorgonzola salad.
Magicial Meat Boutique is a labor of love for its personable owner, Phil Barnard. Born in North London, Barnard spent much of his boyhood helping his father make sausages and burgers in the family's butcher shop. The Barnards' history as butchers dates back to the 1500's, and old photos hang in the pub as a nostalgic reminder.
In 1963, Barnard's father painted his Camden Town butcher shop in psychedelic colors, renamed it "Magical Meat Boutique," and blared Rolling Stones and Beatles music from the store. A friend later borrowed the butcher shop's name and logo to use for the Beatles’ "Magical Mystery Tour" in 1967.
Barnard discovered Mount Dora fifteen years ago during a Florida vacation with his parents. His mother loved the city and dreamed of a family vacation home in Mount Dora. After she died, Barnard used his inheritance to purchase the Mount Do ra home his mom longed for thirteen years earlier.
After moving to the city three years ago, Barnard discovered he missed the British pubs from his home and seized the opportunity to do something different. Magical Meat Boutique, named after his father's business, opened in July, 2014, on Third Avenue, downtown. The pub's executive chef, Edward Wilheim, was the chef at the popular Garden Gate Tea Room, which closed a couple of years ago. Wilheim prepares some of the favorite dishes of the former restaurant as specials, including the infamous Rosemary Chicken Pot Pie.
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Although the area is crowded with restaurants, Barnard said the business has exceeded his expectations with loyal customers who return multiple times a week to dine and again to enjoy live music and karaoke on weekends.
"We all work together on the goal of giving visitors and locals an experience they want to return to," said Barnard, referring to cooperation among downtown restaurants. "But the whole town, in general, is the most friendly place I've ever visited."
The decision to move to the U.S. paid off in more ways than one. He met his wife Kate in Mount Dora and married three years ago, and they quickly became active members of the community. The couple now work together managing the pub and have been rewarded by positive feedback..
Barnard's interesting background is worthy of many pub tales. After high school, he went to college and apprenticed as a carpenter. Prior to moving to Florida, Barnard was the Clerk of Works responsible for the repair and restoration of the Hatfield House and Palace, the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth. It's the perfect thing to ask him about when you pull up a stool at the bar.