Top brunch restaurants in Toronto | FAJO Magazine
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Top brunch restaurants in Toronto

June 23, 2017
By Darina Granik and Violet MacLeod
Photography by Darina Granik, Violet MacLeod and courtesy of each venue

Around this time every year, spring and summer roll into months of sunshine, beach days and (our favourite) brunches! The combination of breakfast and lunch with coffee and cocktails makes brunch the perfect crowd-pleaser meal, especially when meeting friends or family.

After extensive research into the Toronto brunch scene, our editors decided on their top three favourite restaurant picks. The list includes French, Italian and Canadian-inspired cuisine, and each spot has something special to offer.

So, if you’re looking for a great restaurant where you can kick-back, relax and taste some of Toronto’s finest food, then we have some great recommendations for you.

From Farm to Table at Montecito

This season, Montecito—located in the heart of the entertainment district—launches its brunch à la carte menu, which boasts a strict “farm to table” philosophy. With locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, the menu is very versatile and would satisfy both savoury and sweet-inclined guests. While Montecito has a reputation of having exceptional food and more mature guests, their brunch approach targets young urban clientele.

All the ingredients for brunch are sourced from Canada, and as close to Toronto as possible, within 100 km of downtown. Executive Chef Matt Simpson wants his guests, whether they are from Toronto or not, to really get to know what it’s like to be in Southern Ontario at specific times of the year, when different local ingredients are in season. Only avocados are imported and are sourced from California, as a nod to the restaurant’s name—the town of Montecito in California.

During our tasting and interview with the chef, not only did he name-drop farmers and suppliers, but he also shared some of their personal stories. Because, as he mentions, “Yes, we have a farm to table [philosophy], but who’s the farmer? How do they grow? Can we go and visit them? I want to make sure that the culture in this kitchen and this restaurant is [reflective] of that [approach].”

For our brunch, we were first served the Warm Biscuits with house-cultured butter and wildflower honey—very warm and freshly baked, right from the oven. Simpson mentioned that this is one of his favourite items on the menu: one he can eat every day and still enjoy.

Next, we had K2 Milling Buckwheat Pancakes with house-made rhubarb jam and whipped vanilla bean creme fraiche. The chef shared with us that, “This guy Mark, a fifth-generation miller, who produces the flour used for these pancakes, is an epitome of a hippie. His entire farm still runs on a diesel generator. His mill is fit in an old church with cathedral-style windows, and he mills for flavour and nutritional value as opposed to just bulk value.”

Personally, my favourite item was Mushrooms on Toast on a blackbird bakery sourdough, with poached eggs and black garlic vinaigrette. The chef said that in this dish the vinaigrette is key, but the mushrooms were very flavourful, and the bread was soft and crusty. With eggs, they were a perfect brunch item.

Even if guests come to Montecito for lunch during brunch hours, the menu offers an excellent Kale Salad with anchovy dressing and pecorino; Seared B.C Albacore Tuna, which features mixed grain salad, marinated peppers and sheep’s milk feta; and Cumbrae Farms Dry Aged Burger, with red onion jam, house-made pancetta, and 5 brothers cheese. Some of the tables around us actually ordered burgers and savoured them.

The coffee here is 100 per cent fair trade from Reunion Island Coffee Roasters in Toronto, and Montecito also offers natural teas from Pluck Teas in Corktown in Toronto.

299 Adelaide St W, Toronto, ON

-Darina Granik


 

Italo-Canadian experience at Bar Buca

Every weekend Bar Buca, in the King West neighbourhood, offers something truly unique—an Italian brunch. As the Executive Chef Rob Gentile told us: Italian brunch doesn’t exist in Italy.

“We take tradition from Italian dishes and we use ingredients that are more brunch-y. You won’t see anything on the Bar Buca brunch menu that you’ll see in any other typical brunch concept; there’s no Eggs Benedict, there’re no omelettes that are rolled, nothing like that,” says Gentile.

Guests who visit Bar Buca can opt for the sidewalk patio or they can sit inside, either at the shared bar-height tables or along the marble bar top, which is opened into the kitchen. We sat alongside other early morning diners at the shared table, with a view of the bartenders and baristas, who were constantly prepping coffees to-go.

Our tasting was pre-selected by the Bar Buca team and we tried their most popular and delicious meals. Starting with a hot fresh latte, we opted for the organic buffalo milk, which was a unique option for brunch.

For our meal, we were first served the Insalata Primavera, made with Ontario asparagus, fiddleheads, and sweet peas with a pesto sauce and parmigiano. It had a very flavourful yet delicate taste, with perfectly ripe peas. The salad was so fresh and delicious, that we watned to savour every last bite.

Next, we tried Farinata: chickpea crepes with prosciutto, apple mostarda and almonds. It had an unusual taste due to the combination of a salty prosciutto and mustardy-sweet apples, while the chickpea crepes made this dish a solid gluten-free option.

Our favourite dish was Uova Strapazzate, which was a combination of mixed farm eggs with burrata and truffles. “The combination of eggs and truffles is a classic Italian combination—wherever there are truffles available in Italy, they’re always eaten with some sort of eggs,” said Gentile. “And classically, just a simple strapazzate is kind of a scrambled egg. The scramble is done in the bowl, before it goes in the pan. It’s almost like an open-face omelette, where the top is still raw and the underneath is still cooked. We added burrata because we love burrata—we have an awesome local source—and truffles. It just creates such an amazing combination.”

We both agreed; it was amazing. Three couples around us ordered this dish as well and, from what we overheard, they clearly loved it.

Following the strapazzate, we had the famous Bar Buca’s Porchetta, which is pulled Tuscan pork on a focaccia bun, with farm eggs, mascarpone and mostarda. It was absolutely delicious, and even though we were full from the three earlier dishes, we finished it to the last crumb. And as the saying goes, “Clean plates don’t lie.”

For dessert, we had Crespelle, which are crispy semolina pancakes with flavours of cannoli, served with grappa maple syrup. They were crunchy on the outside, and soft and fluffy inside. The syrup was representative of both Italy and Canada, and added depth and richness to the dish.

The Bar Buca menu follows the Canadian seasons and the team tries to source ingredients that are as local as possible. However, specific things like olive oils or citrus fruit are imported. Overall, as Chef Gentile said, Bar Buca’s brunch is, “an amalgamation of what North Americans like to eat for breakfast or brunch, and what Italians actually like to eat for dinner,” which makes it a perfect Italo-Canadian melange.

They don’t take reservations, so make sure you come early as this restaurant gets really busy around noon.

75 Portland Street

-Darina Granik & Violet MacLeod


 

French fusion with a Toronto view at Chez Lavelle

Sixteen floors above the city, this rooftop hot spot boasts the best views of Toronto, and we tend to agree.

The restaurant has two distinct sections for guests to enjoy. The first is Le Jardin, an outdoor rooftop patio, complete with poolside cabanas. The second is Chez Lavelle, a comfortable indoor space where guests can enjoy the relaxed and spacious décor, while enjoying a distinctly French-Toronto fusion dining experience.

The Chez Lavelle menu is the brainchild of French Chef Romain Avril (who is also a Nespresso Chef Ambassador). Born in Paris, France, Avril went to cooking school at the age of 14 and worked at his first Michelin-star restaurant at the age of 17. His cooking style has been described as feminine, delicate and light, which is in harsh juxtaposition to his tall frame, tattooed arms and closely cut hair. He explains that the food at Chez Lavelle is an extension of himself and that, “everything is made in-house!” Chef Avril spends 18 hours a day at Lavelle and wants his guests to feel relaxed. As he puts it, when you visit Lavelle, “you are here in my home [and] you’re my guest.”

For brunch, we suggest the Duck Hash with scallions and tomato jam: the eggs were cooked to perfection, and the rich duck and hash was light, but filling. We also tried the Avocado with feta and a poached egg on sourdough toast, and the Buttermilk Pancakes, which were both delicious. Specifically, the pancakes were fluffy and light, with ricotta, maple and perfectly ripened wild blueberries. Ultimately, the food is a French-Canadian fusion, prepared using Asian culinary techniques. The menu prices are reasonable with upscale options available, like the seafood platter and accompaniments.

The coffee here was also delicious. As a Chef Ambassador for Nespresso, and having recently returned from a coffee training session in Sweden, Chef Avril is a pro. We suggest the Americano, which is incredibly aromatic.

If you’d prefer a cocktail, Chez Lavelle offers a short, but sweet, list of nine drinks each designed by mixologist Jonathan Crosson III. Crosson created a cocktail menu that matches the French Rivera-inspired venue and overall style of both Chez Lavelle and Le Jardin. We suggest grabbing a cocktail post brunch to lounge outside by the pool, while enjoying the sun and the views.

Lavelle provides a lot of varied space for photo-ops. In general, the design of the restaurant is reminiscent of an oasis resort—from the tucked away booths and seating, to the airy formal dining room and Beachwood floors.

627 King Street West

-Violet MacLeod


 

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