It’s Thursday today and we all know what that means: one day closer to the weekend! I don’t know about everyone else, but I utilize my weekends and free time doing one of the following things: taking photos, attacking blog projects, going through recipes I want to try, planning the next scrapbook layout, and researching fabulous weekend brunch places in the city! Oh, and going through and organizing my cargo ship of a lip gloss collection among other housekeeping. But that’s a whole other story for another day!
Today’s food delights take us to Parkdale on Queen Street West, specifically to the culturally and historically iconic Gladstone Hotel! As the oldest operating hotel in Toronto, the Gladstone has gone through what any existing institution from the 1800s would go through: boom and bust, revival, reinvention, and resurgence. Much like the Distillery District, the Gladstone was taken over and restored in the early 2000s, keeping its authentic, historial roots and essence intact, but modernizing the venue to appeal to a different demongraphic; namely, the artistically enriched Queen Street West district. Much of Toronto’s history was rooted in the business of manufacturing and the Gladstone, being the oldest hotel in Toronto, catered to the working class during its historical heyday, housing railroad and manufacturing workers as well as those who came to Toronto to visit the CNE.
Nowadays, the Gladstone is a hubbub of art and cultural activity, hosting galleries and events, great dining and music, and of course, hospitality. The very first time I set foot in the Gladstone was over a year ago during Doors Open Toronto. The museum and art lover in me was absolutely taken by the beautiful art and paintings as well as each uniquely designed, art and gallery inspired hotel room. And don’t even get me started on how in awe I was over the manual operating elevator! Beautiful art and history aside, I was totally smitten with the dining and the menus I pored over during that first visit. Weekday breakfast, weekend brunch, daily lunch, dinner, and dessert, culinary tasting “tours”, a commitment to fair trade, and the love and support of a number of local food producers - they do it all and weekend brunch was the first order of business on my list! Gladstone loves food and it shows.
Weekend brunch, held in the Gladstone Cafe, is served from 8am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays with one of the best brunch menus I’ve seen yet. Their menu, in my opinion, is so fresh and creative. To me, it breathes new life into brunch as a meal. We’re all accustomed to the eggs and bacon and pancakes, and while we love those mainstay options at times, I know there are so many people who think, “I want to be wowed”. You want to feel excited, you want to feel inspired – the worst thing is looking at a menu feeling lackluster over what’s before you and half-heartedly thinking, “hmmm…I guess I’ll have this”. I love looking at a brunch menu knowing there are multiple wonderful options to choose from, things that will force me to come back a second time, and a third, and a fourth.
On the menu: breakfast poutine with chicken gravy, cheese curds, and an egg on top (for the hearty lovers!); fig cream yogurt parfait; huevos Carlito (sunny side eggs with tomatillo salad, avocado aioli, and – this is for the pork lovers – pork belly!; kimchi reuben (I can see this being veeeery popular); salmon scramble, mushroom quiche, and a variety of others. They have a huuuge list of wines and beers written up on the wall as well as a generous selection of Tealish teas to choose from. And in comparison, brunch prices are very much in line with other weekend brunch sit-down spots, hovering between the $9-$14 for most dishes.
My pick? The banana bread French toast! I was hemming and hawing over the French toast, the tofu quesadilla (OH YES), the salmon scramble, and a few others, but ultimately, the homemade banana bread French toast ($11) won this time, with the tofu quesadilla begging me to come back for it the next time. No need to twist my arm!
The banana bread French toast came in nice, thick, sweet triangular wedges with blueberries and mango, pecan cream and pecans, butterscotch, and – to my surprise – two links of pork sausage! I wanted to put that out there because the sausage isn’t listed on the menu under the description of the dish, so vegetarians, steer clear; carnivores, rejoice! Oh how I loved this dish. Here’s the thing though: I was never a fan of banana bread. I KNOW. How could I not love banana bread? It smells divine, it screams homemade baking goodness, and it’s more interesting than plain pound cake. But it never struck my fancy. It was always either a little too dry, a little too oily, a little too crumbly, or just SOMETHING. But the French toast sounded so lovely on the menu I threw caution to the wind and gave the dish a shot. And I am SO happy I did!
I have never had banana bread so moist in my life. The insides were soft and so flavourful while the outsides had that beautiful French toast crust to it that prevented the butterscotch, light at air pecan cream, and fruit from sogging the banana bread up. The flavours and textures in this dish worked so well together, and this is coming from a girl who typically doesn’t eat savoury with sweet on the same plate! But somehow, it worked and it was absolutely delicious. The savoury pork sausage was juicy and not the least bit dry or fatty, the blueberries weren’t too tart or sour, the mango amped up the freshness and lightened up the dish, and pecans provided the dish with toastiness and crunch. The butterscotch with banana bread was perfect and I honestly couldn’t have been happier – I cleaned off my plate!
The Gladstone Cafe is a lovely spot for weekend brunch with a bright and airy atmosphere that’s great for both socializing with friends and sipping a morning cuppa with the paper on your own. I have plenty of art photos from the rest of the hotel that I’d love to show you guys sometime so I’ll save them for the next post. The tofu quesadilla is still calling my name so you can bet I’ll be back for a follow-up and then some!
The Gladstone Hotel is located at 1214 Queen Street West, just east of Dufferin Street in the Parkdale neighbourhood. In addition to their breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner menu, the Gladstone hosts culinary “tours” whereby chef Michael G. Smith creates a different ethnic inspired menu taking guests on whirlwind tour of tastes, flavours, and food. Visit their dining website HERE to find out more! Events will be added to upcoming August Food Calendar and future food calendars from here on out.