Toronto, ON M4W 1A1
The revamped Holts Café sees Holt Renfrew’s flagship restaurant redone with a bold new look and a fresh, seasonally-driven menu in partnership with Chase Hospitality Group.
The refreshed iteration of the restaurant occupies the same space as its predecessor: the mezzanine level of Holt Renfrew’s Bloor Street location, adjacent to the women’s footwear hall (which also received a makeover in 2018). A striking open brass screen provides a window to the department store, while also mitigating any potential dining-in-a-shopping-centre vibes.
The new Holts Café expands on its well-known lunch menu, adding weekend brunch, weekday afternoon tea, and dinner service (which will extend beyond Holt Renfrew’s store hours), in the hopes of attracting shoppers and non-shoppers alike.
Executive chef Benjamin Lillico describes the menu as “contemporary Canadian,” with an emphasis on local, sustainable fare. The restaurant works with purveyors throughout Ontario to source ingredients, including numerous farms in Kitchener-Waterloo (Lillico’s hometown) and Monforte Dairy in Stratford. “We don’t want to overcomplicate things, just start with great ingredients and showcase that,” says Lillico.
The labneh is a colourful, shareable starter featuring rainbow-hued veggies and creamy Sheldon Creek Dairy labneh with wildflower honey, almonds and sumac dukkah.
The BLT Salad is an update of a classic dish from the original Holts Café menu, featuring grilled chicken breast, bacon, tomato, poppy seed vinaigrette, and a crunchy manchego tuile.
Mains like the duck à l’orange showcase the menu’s classical European influence. This one is served with a barley regout, organic carrots, and parsnips, and finished with a clementine jus.
The crisp-skinned Arctic char is served with sherry braised lentils and a cognac sauce.
For dessert, the chocolate trifle puts an elegant spin on the British classic, layering different types of chocolate mousse with cocoa tuile and raspberry.
The drinks menu offers a mix of long-running guest favourite cocktails from the original Holts Café, and new, fruit-focused concoctions. Expect plenty of seasonal cocktails to keep the selection ever-changing.
The Renfrew, the cafe’s namesake cocktail, is a pretty-in-pink mix of sparkling rose, cointreau, white cranberry juice, lime juice, rose water, and essence of rose caviar.
The Smoked Manhattan, one of the few spirit-forward options on the menu, is served in a glass cloche for a dramatic, smoky tableside reveal.
A brief list of “Temperance Cocktails” offers a handful of refreshing, alcohol-free options.
The lengthy spirits menu ranges from stand-by vodkas, gins, and rums to single malt scotch whiskeys and fruit liqueurs; while the globe-spanning list of wines has a good selection of by-the-glass options.
Designed by UK-based firm Alex Cochrane Architect, Holts Café's floor-to-ceiling, 20-foot-high windows give the space plenty of natural light and offer nice views of Bloor Street.
The 145-seat restaurant flows naturally between several defined spaces: a beautiful main bar (which also serves to separate the restaurant from the store, with the help of a brass screen), a main dining area, and a private dining room.
Warm wood panelling, off-white terrazzo flooring, and brass accents provide an elegant base for flourishes of deep blue, red, and other vibrant jewel tones.
By: Jessica Huras Posted: Feb. 12, 2020