Distillery always has good options for food. Since Cluny’s arrival, things got even more interesting!
We arrived from the side of the brick building and looked eagerly at the people on the patio and inside the airy open-concept, Miami-styled interior opening to the outdoors . Although serving as wayfinding, the simple black street pole at the corner gave the company a feel from another time, where standing street clocks were part of the streetscape. Keeping the original Gooderham and Worts Distillery mullioned windows with wooden, green shutters added another silent tribute to the history of this area.
The elaborate entrance greeted us with Victorian gilt-framed mirrors, vintage flooring, and numerous intricate details all over:including a branded, circular pattern on the floral motif carpet and artistic chalkboards with a bold mix of typography and illustration. To our amazement, the restaurant is actually inside a new high rise. All efforts put into making the space feel artisanal and vintage worked beautifully. Good job, Studio Munge!, We surely felt the sense of rich history and character throughout.
The dining room had a marketplace atmosphere with some foods showcased in the middle, as in an upscale buffet of sorts. Visual divisions throughout played into the idea of different food sections, - each side area had unique graphics along the glass and, of course, modern lighting features adding more charm.
The menus were a work of fine art; there were renaissance motifs overlayed with Japanese ink style and British detailed line drawings. A designer’s orgasm was reached by the addition of branded plates with patterns. Some just had “Cluny” set in a classy all-caps serif contained in an oval, combined with a simple pattern to the edges, while others showcased more elaborate seafood illustrations.
We did get too experimental with our choices but had a chance to share quite a few items with our friends. We ordered an Heirloom Tomato Salad, Canadian Swordfish Ceviche, Roast Ontario Pickerel, Goat Cheese and Fig Tartine, as well as Crisp Asparagus Frites. To top it all, we had just enough space left for a Buttermilk Honey Cake. Most of the dishes on the menu did not rattle our imagination, but all had a bit of a twist.
Fresh bread cut on the buffet table right in front of us was fresh and airy - a simple gesture we always commend restaurants for.
We should note, the dish presentation was consistently impeccable. The sharing plate of Asparagus Frites was a curious treat that came breaded with quinoa. It was greasy and, surprisingly, lacking flavour: no zest or salt; however, the punch to the dish was a creamy side sauce, so don’t miss it.
Our salad came as a large, tomato-sandwiching basic, buffalo Fresca topped with a marinated shallot and hints of mustard. It was rather simple but well balanced. Tomato itself was not as flavourful as it appeared. There was a lot of oil and vinaigrette to compensate. The Goat Cheese and Fig Tartines were served on gum-punishingly crispy bread. Topped with Monforte Adeline cream cheese, a transparent slice of Bayonne ham, as well as roasted, fresh black fig halves, it was also topped with hazelnuts. The dish was presented with artisanal splashes of syrup, and a few orange sea buckthorns, adding to the visual treat. These little treats were a delicious paradox of sweet and salty throughout.
The timing of the dishes was right on. Our Roast Ontario Pickerel main came on a dark slate, arranged in an asymmetric and passionate manner. The asparagus curls, fresh beans, and capers salad with mountainous volume to one side was connected to the rest of the dish via a fluffy white, zesty cream sauce of whipped goat feta and puffed rice on top. The fish was fresh and tender. Eating the arrangement was quite an enjoyable process with all the interplaying flavours in the mix.
The twice-baked cheese soufflé was our second dish and it arrived as a simple little medallion, with a side of roasted mushrooms, and a separate area of plain arugula. We hadn’t been impressed, but only until our waitress poured the green and creamy sauce on top of the dish - the asparagus velouté. It aided the presentation and was essential to open up the flavour. The souffle was soft and cheesy, but modest in portion size - just enough to appreciate it.
We ended our flavour journey with the Buttermilk Honey Cake. Although sounding rather simple and uninspiring, the dish came with a citrus mousse and curd, surrounded by blobs of yogurt sorbet, and cassis sorbet. The desert concluded with a creamy, fresh berry paté, in addition to the honey cake.
There is competition for an upscale fare in Toronto is quite stiff nowadays. Ludicrous amounts of money are poured into the design: signage, graphics, objects, and interiors. Every time we go to a restaurant spot with a seemingly unlimited budget, we hope only for food to not disappoint. Cluny did not fail us. This neo-Parisian bistro is definitely a treat not to miss.