There was a time not long ago when Toronto’s French restaurants reached a certain age. Now, suddenly the city is flush with arrivals. One of the newest to emerge is eastside’s Gare de L’Est Brasserie.
GLD is brought to you by Erik Joyal and John Sinopoli, who landed in Leslieville back in 2008 and have been transforming the neighbourhood ever since, with their cool, casual restos: Table 17 (now closed), Ascari Enoteca, Hi-Lo Bar, and The Broadview Hotel’s lobby Café/Bar, The Rooftop lounge, and soon-to-open restaurant, The Civic, on the main floor.
The café is open from 7 am to 4 pm, offering coffee and pastries from The Tempered Room. Sandwiches and other grab-and-go items are set to arrive shortly.
Dinner features classic French fare from Frisée Aux Lardons ($14) and Pâté De Campagne ($12), to Moules Frites ($19) and Confit De Canard ($28). For those catching a show next door at Crow’s Theatre, GDL is the perfect spot to grab dinner. Bonus: enjoy a single complimentary dessert of your choice when you present your ticket for that evening’s performance. Lunch is in the works.
While Sinopoli created the classic bistro menu, chef Mathew Gulyas (The Good Son, Splendido, Table 17) had some input. He created Champignons Bourguignon ($20), “a vegetable dish from a meat eater’s perspective; a vegetable main that doesn’t feel like an afterthought.”
Everything except baguettes and morning pastries are made from scratch in-house. Guylas says, “We use very traditional methods to stay true to the brasserie style.” The kitchen relies on local and seasonal products with fresh produce from 100km Foods Inc., ethically raised meat and fish and seafood from Hooked and Fogo Island Cod.
General Manager Annette Bruley, also the beverage program director both here and at Ascari, features only French wines here, including mead wines from Quebec. Well, with one exception actually: Ontario’s Pearl Morissette is on the list, a nod to sommelier Svetlana Atcheva, who worked at Ascari before heading off to the winery.
“My palate tends towards bright, fresh wines. I want to pay respect to the food menu,” Bruley says.
Mixologist Ben Arbour (Ruby Watchco.) has created a small cocktail program, with a focus on classic French Dubonnet, Lillet, Pastis, Vermouth aperitifs ($8 ea.) – alongside a curated list of dry ciders and beers ($6-$34) that pair well with the food. Cocktails include: Fidèle Pompeux (Pompous Fool, $14), a citrus-based libation, not shaken, made with Pineau Des Charantes, Agricole Rum and lemon juice; and Le 57 (The 57, $14), a citrus-driven, not-too-sweet tipple comprised of gin, absinthe, lemon juice and lemon twist.
Arbour doesn’t use any simple syrup, and mixes and batches all cocktails in bottles, “for speed of service,” so pre-dinner cocktails are at your side in no time.
The building’s concrete and steel exterior becomes a warm oasis, harkening back to classic brasseries with rich jewel tones, plush fabrics and Carrara marble kitchen counter.
The casual fine dining room, replete with white tablecloths, stretches all the way to the corner of Dundas and Carlaw, giving you lots of room to stretch out.
You’ll find striking black and white images from Jean-Luc Godard films throughout the space and a map of a French train station near the entrance, signalling a meeting point. The station – one of the six largest terminals in Paris – is Gare de l’Est, which just happens to translate to “East station.”
Classic French fare in a modern setting, adjacent to a new state-of-the-art theatre, by eastside’s most dynamic duo?
The dining room accommodates 54 guests, while the café seats 16.
Find it: 1190 Dundas St. E. (at Carlaw)
Monday to Friday – 7 am to 4 pm
Saturday and Sunday – 8 am to 4 pm
GDL Dejeuner: (coming this fall 2017)
Sunday to Thursday – 5:30 to 10 pm
Friday and Saturday – 5:30 to 11pm
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