True story: Despite promising his wife he wouldn’t open another resto for a year, when the beloved The Harbord Room became available, Chef Victor Barry (Piano Piano, Splendido) couldn’t pass it up.
After all, Barry and his wife Nikki Leigh McKean went there for “great food, drinks and a good time” back when they were dating years ago. “It was such a space for the neighbourhood,” Barry says.
The stunning French bistro – the fifth restaurant for Barry – is open all day, offering coffee and pastries first thing, plus dinner and drinks.
Grab a Ham ’n’ Cheese Baguette ($14) or Paris Mushroom Soup ($14) or choose from more decadent selections of côte de boeuf, caviar or something from the foie gras menu.
Barry wanted the menu “to be old school European,” and “keep things classic.”
From French Onion Soup ($16) to Duck Confit ($22) and Bavette ($22), dishes run from simple (Petite Dejeuner $18) to sophisticated (Acadian Sturgeon Caviar $90).
Make your experience as casual (glass of wine or beer with a burger for about $30) or full on (champagne and Côte De Boeuf $120 for two!) as you like.
Enjoy throwback dishes from Barry’s Splendido resto: Smoked Oyster ($9), Rainbow Trout Sorrel ($48 for two), and Frites ($8) with mayo rémoulade from an old tasting menu. The Escargots ($16) are from Barry’s restaurant across the street, Piano Piano.
From early morning coffee to late-night cocktails, or as Barry calls it “Beans to Bordeaux,” Café Cancan’s got you covered.
After starting out with a few cocktails on the list, Bartender Justin Shiels (Good Fortune, DaiLo, Rush Lane) “took them to another level,” says Barry. Cocktails range from $7 to $15, and include aperitif selections (Pêche-et-Fleurs $7, Rinquinquin, Belvoir Farms Elderflower Pressé, for example) and “classique” such as the Fino Colada ($14) made with Tio Pepe Sherry, Havana Club 3 Year, pineapple, coconut, lime, crémant.
“Apero Hour” takes place daily from 3 to 5 pm with glasses of wine or beer or a single cocktail (currently the Batifole!) for just $5. Snacks too, during this time, are also just $5.
Looking for something on the lighter side? Enjoy low-alcohol options ($6-8) that you can sip on all day without having to suffer the consequences.
The extensive wine list features most French varietals, though you’ll find a few Niagara and U.S. selections as well (gls range from $10-$20, with btls starting at $42). Want something more elevated? Check out the “Reserve” wine list ($100-$250).
Should you wish to sip on champagne and other bubbles, choose from seven bottles, including a bottle of Chardonnay/Pinot Noir NV Perrier Jouët “Grant Brut” can be yours for a crisp C-note.
Fixtures & Fittings
Ooh la la, Café Cancan is one of the prettiest spots in town.
With a rich palette of pastels and feminine touches of floral wallpaper and soft pink walls (because you’re going to want to redo your own as soon as you get home: Cinder Rose by Farrow & Ball), designer Tiffany Pratt and contractor Ernst Wallner have created a space that you’ll never want to leave.
From the pale pink water glasses to old-fashioned ceiling fan, the room is a veritable cornucopia of beautifully curated items. Even the washroom’s champagne bronze faucet is a stunner.
For further evidence, one need look no further than the birthday sprinkle floor.
Off the Menu
Ceci Et Cela($18) Simple, yet exquisite, ice-cold crudité refresh on a sweltering summer day. From crunchy fennel, snap peas and pickled carrots to crisp asparagus spears, boy choy and radish, it’s a veritable picnic on a plate. Boosted with fresh anchovies, shaved smoked ham, Beemster fromage, and a captivating buttermilk dip and chermoula sauce, this lighter style of eating is deeply satisfying.
Foie Gras Parfait ($17) Move over avocado – this might just be the most luxurious “toast” on the block. Creamy and buttery and oh-so-rich, yet never cloying foie gras parfait pairs beautifully with sweet strawberry ’n’ rhubarb jam. A light sprinkling of Maldon salt helps cut the richness. And the thick slab of toasted pain au lait from the Piano Piano bakeshop is simply divine, foie or no foie.
Steak Tartare ($18) Minced steak is mixed with classic garnishes of cornichons, chives and capers – heavy on the mustard – under a blanket of shaved raw mushroom slices and golden fingerling potato chips that will feed your chip addiction.
Panisse Frite ($24) This seasonal vegetable fricassee is a celebration of all things summer: tender chickpea fritters, fava beans, dinosaur kale leaves, radishes, peas, with a vibrant chermoula as fresh as a summer’s day.
Peanut Butter Éclair ($5) Think Reese Peanut Butter cup – made with milk chocolate and peanut mousse – and insert into a thick pastry. The result? A rich, decadent dessert that could be shared, though no judgment should it disappear before your guests notice.
There’s room for 30 guests inside and 30 on the patio out back. Coming soon: a front boulevard café patio.
At the Stove: Chef Victor Barry, Chef de Cuisine Adam Alguire
Head Honchos: Chef Victor Barry, Brendan Piunno, and Nikki Leigh McKean
FOH: Alexander Harber & Jubilee Pridham
Map it: 89 Harbord St.
Café & Lunch (Sat & Sun Café & Brunch) – 10 am to 3 pm
Snack – 3 to 5 pm
Dinner – 5 to 11 pm
Cocktails –11 pm to Late
Phone it in: 647-341-3100
How Cool is This?! The “Flamingo Room” is swathed in pink flamingo wallpaper, has a round booth seating for up to five and a curtain to give you the privacy required on date night, anniversaries and other such occasions.
Check out our Facebook page for more photos.