All hail the brunch and lunch in the east end! Riverdale and Leslieville round up some of the best brunch cafes in the city with the likes of Le Papillon on the the Park, Bonjour Brioche, Table 17, Lady Marmalade, and my latest brunch favourite, Hammersmith’s! Located smack dab on the corner of Gerrard Street East and Logan Ave. and humbly referred to as Riverdale’s friendly neighbourhood corner brunch spot, Hammersmith’s boasts seasonal, farmhouse style food that is simaltaneously wholesome and simple, yet unique and deliciously complex.
You’re probably wondering how I found out about Hammersmith’s in the first place. I know many of you are accustomed to hearing me (or rather, reading me) say that my food discoveries were made during random walks around town or by random sightings on a streetcar. Not this time. Let it be known that even the most die-hard of foodies rely on some holy grail food bibles every once in awhile.
I found out about Hammersmith’s in one of my issues of Where magazine Toronto! Yes, that’s right, a free tourist magazine made available at hotels, the Eaton Centre, and in Union Station. I will always and forever see myself as a tourist in my own city because there is always something new to explore and learn about and food is at the top of this list. Where magazine Toronto has been one of the best things in my life for over 2 years now and I digilently pick up my free monthly copy at the Eaton Centre at the beginning of every month to flip through throughout the month. And once I read about Hammersmith’s within the magazine’s sea of restaurant listings, I knew it was only a matter of time before I made my way here.
One of the things I love about Hammersmith’s is their menu focus. They have one blackboard menu for the season as oppsoed to pages upon pages of items that may or may not garner any interest on a regular basis. It’s about quality here, not quantity and they keep it simple, fresh, and mouthwateringly delicious with their mix of meat and vegetarian dishes. What you might find on the menu on any given day? A duck plate (hello duck confit hash!), a smoked bacon omelette, a mushroom omelette, a braised beef and goat cheese sandwich, a smokey bacon sandwich with tomato and arugula, chicken sandwiches with different fixin’s and fillings, an asparagus plate, and plenty of fresh sides to go along with these mains including a scone plate, bacon hash, a watercress and green bean salad, and asparagus with miso and scallions.
Their menu changes based on what’s in season and they build a menu that flows from one item to the next, in the sense that they utilize their ingredients in more than capacity and in more than one dish. Nothing goes to waste and they find scrumptious ways of using “leftovers”, so to speak, and you’ll see what I mean later on in the post.
Open from Wednesday to Sunday (10am-3:30pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, an Fridays, and 9:30am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays), Hammersmith serves brunch and lunch all 5 days, with a new special $35 price fixe dinner promotion currently in place from 6pm-9pm on Thursdays and Fridays. Prices for brunch mains range from $9-$13, with sides coming in at $5 each. In addition to their farmhouse stye food, Hammersmith’s also serves up a mean, decadent selection of baked goods and sweets along with an entire blackboard menu full of drinks! This Part I post is specifically focused on the food, but if you have a hankering for sweets and drinks, don’t fret because Part II and III will soothe those cravings with strawberry lemonade and cupcakes!
Back to the food though. I knew right off the bat that I wanted to try both a main and a side and since I’m a huuuge lover of watercress and asparagus (can you tell by all the asparagus photos I post in the blog’s Facebook farmers’ market photo gallery?), I went with the chicken salad and watercress sammy ($10) and the asparagus with miso and scallions ($5) will a cool glass of strawberry lemonade, which I’ll rave about tomorrow.
Their sandwiches are served on a crusty baguette with an amazing side salad of mixed bitter greens and arugula and razor thin slices of radish, tossed in a mouthwatering olive oil dressing. Their chicken salad is so moist and so fresh, and deliciously creamy without being soggy or laden with mayo. The chicken breast was shredded and piled onto the baguette and topped with watercress and it’s moments like these where you just know you’re eating some of the best chicken out there. Much like my experience at Delux with their achiote and lime chicken sandwich, I thought the chicken salad was pure fantastic. Combined with the salad, I cleaned off my plate till it was shiny.
And the asparagus! Oh my goodness. Spears of crisp asparagus were bathed in miso butter and special hot sauce and it was unlike anything that I had ever had before. The miso butter was savoury and toned down the slight bitterness of the asparagus while the special hot sauce gave every bite that amazing bit of kick. And to really kick things up a notch, I was given a special little “extra” to go with my meal. Rememeber how I said Hammersmith’s doesn’t waste anything and utilizes all their food and ingredients in different ways? Well, when you make chicken salad without the skin, it has to go somewhere. And that somewhere was on little plate. That’s right, folks – crispy chicken skin partnered with dollops of hot sauce and spicy grainy mustard! A little like peking duck only with crispy chicken skin. Now THIS was different – and delightfully delicious!
I love it here so much and now that I’ve come here once, I’m determined to come back and eat my way through their blackboard menu, season after season. Part II and III, we go sweet and fruity fresh with Hammersmith’s cupcakes and drinks!
Hammersmith’s is located at 807 Gerrard St. East in Riverdale, at the corner of Gerrard and Logan Ave. They are a brunch and lunch cafe open from Wednesday to Sunday (10am-3:30pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and 9:30am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays), with a price fixe dinner currently available on Thursdays and Fridays for $35. Currently, for the summer, they are also now open on Mondays from 10am-3pm! They accept cash and debit only.