Here’s my two cents on 529 Wellington:
Without a doubt, it is the toniest steakhouse in Winnipeg. An steak will set you back around $40, and since all the sides are à la carte, you’re looking at around $140 per head for a full steak dinner (including appetizer, entree, dessert, wine, tax, tip), or, fourteen thousand cents.
But I don’t think they’re trying to rip anyone off, as evidenced by their very reasonable lunch prices. The French Onion soup is a complete meal for $9.00; for that you get a swirl of slow-cooked onions hiding under a thick raft of cheese and croutons, topped table side with port. Or, you can get a Cajun Chicken Caesar for $15.00, which is only three dollars more than what you would pay at Applebees, but easily three times the quality. The lunch sandwiches and burgers are uncomplicated, tasty, and appropriately priced.
So what are you paying for when you drop $300 on a dinner for two at 529 Wellington? Well, prime beef for one – the higher price is reflected in the aging and the marbling. You’re also paying for an on-site wine expert, meticulously sourced ingredients, the attention of knowledgeable waitstaff, and the pleasure of sitting in a lavishly restored 1912 mansion. You don’t have to raise your voice to have a conversation with your fellow diners, which in my aging mind is always worth a few bucks.
Apart from bovine indulgences, 529 Wellington offers a top-notch seafood selection. You can say ‘hi’ to your lobster before it hits the pot. The shrimp cocktail is on steroids, and the same shrimp sauteed in garlic parsley butter is swoon-worthy. I was underwhelmed on one visit by my Ahi Tuna – when you’re serving only a naked, seared chunk of tuna on a plate, the seasoning has to be right. On a recent visit to the mercifully relaxing lounge we indulged in a farm-fresh tomato mozzarella salad, along with poutine with foie gras. I paid doubly for that meal – once with my Visa, and again when I looked at my ass in the mirror the next morning.
Are these restaurants for everyone, every time? No, definitely not. I usually feel a little nauseous when the bill comes. And I must mention that there are Winnipeg restaurants like Segovia and Deseo where you will get an equally excellent meal in a refined environment, but for half the price.
So is it reasonable for any restaurant to charge $300 for dinner? Maybe, if the price is justified by the quality. Like with anything else, if you’re going to ask a diner to put their money where there mouth is, you better do so too.