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Graystones was about delicious food, remarkable service and awesome memories

Steak Diane was a signature dish at the high-end restaurant once located where the re-imagined Argyle Arms is about to open

One of my very favourite places to dine back in the '90s was Graystones in Preston. Carlos and Franco owned and operated Graystones after leaving the French Cowboy Bouquet Garni they operated at the base of Shantz Hill Road on Fountain Street.

They both were formally trained chefs and maitre'd in Kitchener. Carlos, Franco and Alfredo were all related to each other and opened Graystones.

I ate their cooking in the backyard with other cooks and friends.

In Kitchener many meals were enjoyed at Benito’s french cuisine restaurant opened at the former Hurlbut's Tavern on West Avenue. Benito was also the banquet manager and maître d' at the former Inn of the Black Walnut at King and Benton streets, now the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

In my estimation, this team had one of the best continental style restaurants in Ontario. 

The entrées prepared in that kitchen were award winning and would please the many visiting gourmands from around the world.

My good friend Dick Lilly, who was a commercial pilot, and I would dine here frequently just for the sweet breads, frog legs and pate. All of their meat was dry aged properly. The sauces, like hollandaise and peppercorn demi glace, were legendary among these chefs.

My favourite was the coquille saint-jacques and the cherries jubilee. They also carried a sommelier selection of fine wines and craft beers which I really liked.

The front-of-house actors were well rehearsed and all good with fire and knives. The cuisine cart à la table or Russian table service for caesar salad and their mouthwatering steak Diane was most popular with the diners.

That cart had a lot of user-friendly miles of wear and tear. It was always a show watching some table getting a flambé dessert of baked alaska or cherries jubilee.

Back when I last dined here they produced splendid recipes that earned the restaurant high praise. 

The failure to properly control one's desires for food and drink was my moral gluttony approach at Graystones.

Now it's just a memory for most of us who once celebrated this special eatery, making us very passionate about the Graystones experience.

Steak Diane is similar to steak au poivre. Early recipes had few ingredients and usually consisted of steak, butter, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, salt and chopped parsley, and possibly garlic.

The beef steak was cut or pounded thin so that it would cook rapidly, sautéed in the seasoned butter and Worcestershire sauce, and garnished with the parsley. It was not flambéed.

Later, Continental American versions were more elaborate. The New York City Delmonico's recipe from 1953 adds some brandy, sherry, chives, dry mustard, and lemon juice.

Only one recipe explicitly calls for flambéing. That sauce is flambéed with brandy, dry sherry, or Madeira, and poured over the steak.

My favourite recent recipes would contain butter, shallots, cream and mushrooms to the sauce. The recipe first used venison in 1914 and then in the UK, starting in 1936, used a sirloin steak and was a favourite of the Prince of Wales.

In the 1950s, the Duke of Windsor enjoyed the same meal prepared by Canadian chefs that he preferred on his royal menu synopsis when he dined at the Iroquois Hotel in Galt.

My dad was proud of this and received a royal gift thanking him for his superior cooking abilities. 

Below is the recipe for The Graystones' steak diane.

I wanted to bring back the tableside service that was so popular in dining rooms long ago.

My steak diane-style has come to sautéing thinly sliced filet mignon or a nicely marbled New York strip loin in butter and then flambéing and basting it in a luxe cognac sauce with sliced mushrooms to the pan for richer flavor.

I love dishes like this. It can give you an elegant dinner that is table-ready in less than a half hour.

With so little time investment here, you're free to prepare any number of sides, as simple or as fancy as you please. Toss a seasonal salad, baked or french fries potatoes with a side of sautéd spinach, roasted asparagus or brussels sprouts. 

The simplest of sides to go with steak diane's versatile flavours.

The Graystones' Steak Diane


1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

4 (6-ounce) New York Strip Sirloin or Beef Tenderloin medallions, pounded 3/4-inch thick

Kosher salt

Fresh ground black pepper

1 small shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 pound button mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick

1/4 cup cognac or other brandy

2 teaspoons dijon mustard

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup beef stock demi glace

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon finely chopped scallions

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Hot sauce or HP if desired.


In a large skillet, melt butter with olive oil. Season meat with salt and pepper to taste and cook over high heat until lightly browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook for 2 minutes longer, then transfer to a plate and tent with foil.

Now you add shallot and garlic to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat, add Cognac, and carefully ignite it with a long match.

When flames die down, add mustard and cream and stir over moderate heat for 1 minute. Whisk in the veal demi glace, Worcestershire sauce, scallions, and parsley; season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste. Add meat and any accumulated juices to the saucepan and turn to coat. Simmer until heated through, about 1 minute.

Transfer meat to plates, spoon sauce on top, and serve.

Let's Eat!

Chef Wayne Conrad Serbu writes monthly for CambridgeToday. The former executive chef also shares recipes and memories from his more than five decades in the hospitality industry on his blog, the kitchenman.