Cluny Bistro’s Newest Addition – Chef Murray McDonald

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Cluny Bistro has continued to wow the crowd since opening in Toronto’s historic Distillery District in June 2014.

The French bistro with a twist has been delighting both residents and tourists alike, with menus featuring classic French fare alongside more modern interpretations, and standout decor designed by Studio Munge.

The expansive space – 12,000 square-feet – provides a number of dining options including: Patisserie and Café, Bar Lounge, Oyster Bar, Central Dining Room, and Private Event Space, in addition to three separate patios boasting 5,000 square-feet of outdoor dining space.

The latest addition is Chef Murray McDonald from Newfoundland.

East to West

As chef of award-winning Fogo Island Inn (named The Diners Club 50 Best Discovery Series by The World’s 50 Best) for the last five years, he created meals for famous folks such as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family, and Goop founder Gwenyth Paltrow, who posted on Instagram that it was “Dinner spot #heaven.” Featuring everything from fresh caught fish to wild game (moose, caribou, rabbit), McDonald reinvented Newfoundland cuisine, taking it to new heights.

Cooking up a storm professionally since the age of 18 in Bermuda, Grand Cayman Islands, New Zealand, Mexico and Vancouver, to name a few, he’s worked in every kind of kitchen.

McDonald’s love of cooking goes back to grandmothers Emma and Arabella. The latter lived four hours away and would ensure that freshly baked bread and pies came out of the oven upon his arrival.

“Food’s always about memory,” McDonald says. “It has to conjure up a feeling.”

From Fogo to French

Moving from the wide-open spaces of Newfoundland to the bustling streets of Toronto, with wife Judy and kids Kai and Maye in tow, isn’t the only big change for McDonald. He’s had to transition from ultra fine-dining meals for 40 guests an evening, to feeding over 600 people a night.

Instead of being overwhelmed, he’s excited for the challenge and was looking to “do something different.”

And McDonald fits right in. With his laid-back charm, east coast accent, sleeves of tattoos and love of rock ’n’ roll (his band days live on thanks to a collection of 16 guitars at home), he brings a relaxed calm and cool vibe to the place. That’s along with fine French technique and an honest-to-goodness love of quality, local and seasonal fare.

The French bistro’s unpretentious and “slightly quirky” fare is well-suited for McDonald.  And with a great team in place – including chef de cuisine Travis Cropley – the development of 13 new dishes on the dinner menu came together pretty easily.

There are new additions to the lunch and brunch menu, too, including: Croque Madame ($18.90), Salt Cod Benedict, Lamb Merguez ($22.90) and Cod Cobb Salad ($17.90), with wheatberry, freekah, salt cod brandade, crispy poached egg and pickled onion.

Tartine to Tomahawk

There’s something for everyone – from tartines and other traditional French dishes:
Baked Lobster Bisque ($15.90) and Steak Frites ($23.90-$36.90), to more contemporary selections of Salt Cod Donuts ($11.90), Veal Meatball “Tomahawk” ($26.90), and Asian influenced BBQ Mackerel ($26.50) with charred scallion and brussels sprout “okonomiyaki” crepe, nori, meyer lemon miso, shaved bonito, salmon roe, and new potato.

And that’s what makes Cluny Bistro so unique: French, but with the added bonus of globally inspired options. A stunning space, yet not stuffy, despite its fine fixtures and fittings, so come dressed to the nines or in shorts. And by all means, bring the kids.

Check out some of the new dinner items from Chef Murray McDonald and his team on our Facebook page now.


Cluny Bistro (35 Tank House Lane) is open for lunch, dinner, brunch and cocktails Monday to Thursday 11:30 am to 10 pm, Friday 11:30 am to 11 pm, Saturday 10:30 am to 11 pm and Sunday 10:30 am to 10 pm.

Adjoining Patisserie and Café is open Sunday to Thursday 8 am to 10pm, Friday and Saturday 8 am to 11 pm.