F&W contributor Nadia El Ferdaoussi heads to Canada and discovers a vibrant food and drink scene in Toronto.
Something I never would have predicted before visiting is the fact that Toronto is an absolute haven for foodies. Local cheese and wine, food tours, great coffee, new food halls and an endless list of talented chefs opening new restaurants, it’s the perfect city to eat and drink your way around.
Canada’s first chef-driven food hall (a more upmarket food court with a bar), Assembly Chef’s Hall, opened last year with some of the city’s top names in the restaurant business. You’ll find unicorn lattes, Bangkok street food, vegan favourites, authentic ramen and pit-smoked barbecue alongside a full bar with daily specials all under one roof.
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Another first in Canada is the Ritz Carlton’s cheese cave in Italian inspired Toca restaurant. A glass-enclosed cave wall-to-wall with cheese right in the middle of the restaurant, it’s a cheese lovers paradise. The in-house sommelier can help you pair perfectly - if you’ve got a sweet tooth, try a Canadian ice wine.
To sample a little bit of everything on offer, while getting to grips with your surroundings and perhaps seeing a different part of the city, book onto one of Culinary Adventure Co.’s walking tours. The Leslieville and Riverside neighbourhoods are full of gems, so try the three-hour tour to find the best bits. Make sure you arrive hungry because for $86 (about €60) you’ll be cider tasting, trying terrine in the local butcher and fresh bread in the bakery, have a fascinating lesson about coffee roasting in Merchants of Green Coffee, sharing Middle Eastern favourites at Tabule and finishing with ice cream.
For a walking tour that’s more sightseeing with a sprinkle of iconic Torontonian cuisine, give Bruce Bell a call. The Toronto historian knows the place inside out, he essentially has the key to the city, or at least he has keys to St Lawrence indoor market where you can try a famous peameal bacon sandwich. Served best with a dollop of mustard, this fatty salty pork makes the perfect hangover meal.
A Toronto night out
Not quite as Canadian, Leña restaurant is well worth a visit. The South American-influenced menu is a real crowd pleaser and the music and lively atmosphere make this the perfect spot for a night out. Try the Allspice Margarita made with Olmeda gold tequila, ancho Reyes chile liqueur (it’s hot!), cinnamon and lime and order some charred calamari and blistered shishito peppers to share.
First-time visitors to Toronto will no doubt want to view the city from the famous CN Tower. Instead of heading straight to the windy viewing platform, book a table for lunch in the rotating restaurant, 360. The food is surprisingly great and the wine list is impressive, try some Canadian riesling from the Niagara Peninsula with the Atlantic salmon or Newfoundland cod. A two-course lunch will set you back $60 (€40 - fixed menu, not inc. drinks) which also gets you free access to the LookOut and GlassFloor, but trust me the view is better from the comfort of your seat. Thrill seekers might like to try the EdgeWalk for a hands-free walk around the 365m high structure, maybe best before lunch though.
This summer, the Grand Bizarre will host the Bizarre Beach Club Night Market. Each Saturday night (8pm-2am) from 15th of June, the Night Market will feature a host of food vendors with food trucks, bars and live entertainment on the massive outdoor patio with stunning views of the Toronto skyline.
Cocktails and bites
For all-day dining is a building draped in history, try the newly opened Maison Selby, housed at the 136-year-old C.H. Gooderham House in St. James Town. The location once hosted Ernest Hemingway during his career as a foreign correspondent at the Toronto Star (you’ll spot Eggs Hemingway on the brunch menu), but is now a modern French-inspired multi-level venue with daily deals like $1 oysters when you buy a bottle of wine. After you’ve eaten, head down to the underground speakeasy bar Sous Sol for ten dollar cocktails.
Another popular cocktail spot, also newly reopened, is Baro Rooftop. The outdoor patio serves up summer favourites like Sangria Blanca and Pisco Sours alongside tasty bar snacks of ceviche, chips and dips and build your own tacos.
Keep your eye on what’s happening with Toronto’s vibrant and ever-changing food and drink scene at seetorontonow.com.
Author: Nadia El Ferdaoussi
Dublin native, Nadia is a freelance travel writer whose plan is to wander the globe until the novelty wears off (if that ever happens). Despite travelling to exotic locations the world over, her favourite country is Ireland, “when the sun shines, there’s no better place.” Her dream job would be mystery shopping in hotels, since she has a keen eye for detail and already spends most of her time living out of a suitcase. Nadia has a new found passion for wine and is quickly moving up through the ranks in terms of wine education. Her bucket list destination? Antarctica.
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