Holt Renfew’s café recently unveiled a fancy new menu and I was grateful to be invited to the after-work celebration.
The Holt Renfrew website describes the café as an attempt “to embrace the European ideal of the café:” a meeting place with friendly service that serves as an appropriate locale for a rendez-vous avec les amis pour dejeuner. The café has previously been famous for its Poilâne bread, flown in directly from Paris every 24-48 hours. Fear not, that custom is not going anywhere.
Ironically, in spite of such decadence, Holts is marketing the café as a more affordable and less elitist option than the previous menu offered with most items in the $7-$16 range.
While chatting with a prominent and powerful fashion insider, he joked that we (he and I) were the only people in attendance to actually sample the food. Others stood around self-consciously, wanting to be noticed in the fashionable environment.
Try-hard fashion types clustered around the bar, sucking in their stomachs and sticking out their implanted chests. I’m generally not one to get too intimidated by this kind of carrying on. (Early in my PR career, I helped out with the publicity for Carlie Wong during L’Oréal Fashion Week for her debut collection.) Nonetheless, this was not the friendliest crowd. I sometimes think I would like to work in the fashion realm; but then I am always shocked at the amount of bullshit therein. It surprises me every time.
The serving staff were simply lovely, meeting the ideal of friendly service that the new café strives to achieve. The freely-flowing drink of choice was a Thyme Collins, accentuating the traditional Tom Collins concoction of carbonated water, sugar, lemon juice and Gin with an additional sprig of fresh thyme. My tolerance is low in my old age (joking!) and I certainly noticed the effects of two cocktails. I found the thyme inclusion refreshing and original. I’m generally a big fan of herbs in cocktails. (I previously wrote about herbaceous drinks concocted by Frankie Solarik from barchef at the launch of family-owned and operated Victoria Gin.)
The menu tasting commenced with chicken pot pie ($14 for the full size). I thought the petite version was très mignon served in a little espresso glass. A lovely start to the meal.
Next we sampled the CT burger, named after Chef Corbin Tomaszeski. It came with sliced heirloom tomato and basil pesto on a classic brioche bun. My boyfriend was not a huge fan of the bun, but I didn’t mind it: eggy and sweet. The full burger comes with frites, truffle chips or mixed greens for $12.
I think there may have also been shitake mushrooms on the burger. In fact, I think there were shitake mushrooms in everything, including the chicken pot pie. They also brought around hors d’oeuvres of seasoned and sautéed mushrooms in little Parmesan cups. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t really go wrong with shitake mushrooms. I say put them on everything!
The desserts excited me. We sampled a pear-stuffed carrot cake that looked like a French Madeleine. The heaping mound of butter cream aided the French authenticity of the dish.
Following that was a charming little cube of chocolate and hazelnut bread pudding ($7, full size), topped with a raspberry. My boyfriend found it a little heavy. I figure bread pudding pretty heavy in its very nature and was grateful that we only ate a bite-sized amount.
Chocolate mousse with ganache in a chocolate shell was the grand finale, something any chocoholic would appreciate.
The Holt Renfrew Café is located at 50 Bloor Street West on the Mezzanine level (map)
Telephone: (416) 922-2333
Monday- Wednesday: 10 AM -6PM
Thursday - Friday: 10 AM - 8PM
Saturday: 10 AM - 7PM
Sunday: 12 PM - 6PM