Brunch used to be a weekly occurrence for me. Fridays would be spent looking for the next place to check out and Saturdays and Sundays were built around where brunch would be eaten. This all stopped in April this year. I stopped going for brunch in an attempt to be more fiscally responsible (didn’t work) and to enjoy other aspects of living in the city beyond brunch (did work). My last brunch was sometime in April or May; Instagram tells me that it was at the end of April to Bar Buca.

This past Saturday was very exciting for me. It was the first time in approximately 4 months that I went out for a proper brunch. After running a few errands downtown, GC took me for brunch at OLD SCHOOL.

I’ve wanted to try Old School for a while now. It is located where The Huntsman Tavern used to be and I was excited to see what took over from that mess. It is super close to GC’s work, it’s open 24-hours/a day and it is by the same people behind SCHOOL in Liberty Village, which is one of my favourite brunch spots in the city.

We were initially sat at the bar to wait for our table to be cleared. We were seated for all of 2 minutes which seemed unnecessary but gave me enough time to gawk over the bar and the various in-house sodas they make. We were brought through the main area of the restaurant to be seated at a small table that overlooked the large, side patio.

The set-up is your classic, old school diner vibe, but a bit classier. There is no bright red booths and vinyl seating. The table tops aren’t yellowed and chips. Everything is black and white with classy touches of neon in the signs. I know what you are thinking, “Classy neon signs?” Yes, they can exist and do exist at OLD SCHOOL.

IMG_4576You can tell I don’t go for brunch on a regular basis anymore based on the quality of my photos. This is overexposed but for some reason, I really like it.

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Two weeks ago we went to L’Ouvrier for brunch.

The inside is sparse, with expansive white walls littered with an assortment of random wall hangings. There are antique white-washed tin ceiling tiles, painted sticks, goody bags and a mural-sized photo of turn-of-the-century cooks? Miners? Random dirty men with various tools to do various things? It was cluttered and chaotic.

Because we are hideous and were wearing hoodies we were seated near the bar at the back of the restaurant at a dimly lit table. I understand servers have tables and there is a method to how customers are seated but it looks bad when the restaurant has a total of 4 tables seated and you are placed near the back.

The menu is varied and has more than your traditional brunch items. It goes beyond bacon and eggs. It is a very adult-brunch menu with oysters, braised rabbit terrines and tuna tartare. It is all very elegant but I associate these items with a late lunch, rather than a brunch. However, this is more a comment on my lack of imagination with menus rather than a criticism on the restaurant.

I ordered the Potato Rosti.

IMG_2901The Potato Rosti with smoked salmon, crème fraîche, arugula, fried shallots and capers.

This came to my table. Please tell my why I am eating brunch and have a huge mountain of arugula in front of me? This is one of the most poorly plated dishes I have ever had. Logic would suggest that there should be a bed of arugula topped with a potato rosti, then crème fraîche, smoked salmon and sprinkled with fried shallots and capers. My rosti was hidden under this ridiculous pile of arugula. It was likely hidden so I couldn’t immediately see how tiny it was. The salmon was scattered over the plate, also to detract from how little salmon there actually was. The crème fraîche was gritty which should never be a thing and is an upsetting texture to discover in your mouth when you are expecting smooth, silkiness.

The flavours were okay, and the portion was small and unbalanced. I was not impressed.

GC ordered the B.L.T.

IMG_2900The B.L.T. with house made bacon, arugula, aioli, and fries.

The house made bacon was good, and there was plenty of it unlike my BLT at Scratch Kitchen. Much like my rosti, there was a ridiculous amount of arugula on this sandwich. I liked these use of a different type of green rather than your standard iceberg/romaine lettuce but you do not need to pile it on in excess for me to get the point.

I thought the bread was unimpressive and stood is sharp opposition to the rest of the ingredients. If you are going to spend time making house made bacon, it should be sandwiched between two pieces of bread that have been lovingly made in-house, not your standard grocery store-Dempster’s type bread. The plate was overrun with fries which is not a bad thing but it wasn’t necessary to have this many fries.

L’Ouvrier is pretentious and unnecessary. The menu is too ambitious for the atmosphere, clientele and staff. L’Ouvrier greatly missed the mark for me. I have no interest in eating poorly executed lunch foods for brunch. If I want a fancy brunch I will go somewhere like Farmhouse Tavern where the menu is an upscale, elegant interpretation of real breakfast food.

Happy munching!


Scratch Kitchen

The first brunch of 2015! As someone who eats brunch a lot, it was important for me to start my Brunches of 2015 on a high note. I know this is a ridiculous notion as the ending of one year isn’t really any more significant than the ending of a regular day, week, month but convention dictates that we must reflect on the past 365 days and makes goals for the next 365 days. My brunch-related resolutions are:

  1. Complete the BlogTO Top 50 Brunch List. I am so close to this goal with only 5 more to go. In 2015, I want to be done this list once and for all.
  2. Create my own Top 10 brunch list. You have all been waiting with baited breath for this list and in 2015 I want to be able to deliver this to you.
  3. Go out for brunch less. And instead, make brunch at home. And even host more brunches. Between Breakfast Central and our epic espresso machine, I should be able to create a breakfast at home to rival any restaurant in Toronto.

My first brunch of 2015 did not fulfill any of these goals but that’s ok. You can’t always be a stickler for the rules. We decided to check our Scratch Kitchen, a new restaurant just north of Lawrence and Yonge, a location we loosely consider our neighbourhood. Since it is “in our neighbourhood” we wanted to check out if it could become our new, go-to brunch spot.

Although it was technically a weekday morning (a Friday, the day after New Year’s Day) the restaurant was about half full. They obviously did not assume a lot of people would have this day off and would want to go for brunch because there was only one server working. To be fair, he was hustling. He was seating people, taking orders, making coffee and lattes and doing kitchen runs.

We were seated at a table near the back of the restaurant, against the giant blackboard wall. This wall had drawings of pigs with cuts of meat, daily special and drinks. It’s a neat focal point however, sitting next to a giant black board results in excessive amounts of dust on everything.

I wasn’t overly impressed with the menu. It had 4 proper breakfast options, 3 of which were variations of your standard egg breakfasts. It was very sandwich heavy which is fine, but sandwiches do not scream brunch to me. I understand brunch is literally a combination of breakfast and lunch menu items but I don’t want to eat a sandwich at 10 o’clock in the morning. Despite this, I wanted to order the pulled pork sandwich. They had run out. This bothered me because they were closed the day before which meant they hadn’t planned ahead and did not make the pork the night before. Fine. I will order a different sandwich.

I ordered the BLT.

IMG_2885In-House 10 day cured bacon, local Ontario tomatoes and seasonal greens with house made Chardonnay mayonnaise.

B is the first letter in BLT and therefore should be the dominate ingredient and flavour. Then why was there this excessive amount of lettuce on my sandwich? When I could finally get to some bacon it was very good. It was fatty and crispy, with the right amount of saltiness to it. The Chardonnay mayo was nice; it added the right amount of tang and zest to the sandwich. There was a little bit too much of it on the sandwich which made it a bit sloppy and difficult to eat. The home fries were good – cooked thoroughly and not too crispy. This was decent but not great. I would not go back to eat it or recommend it.

GC ordered the Steak and Eggs.

IMG_2884Certified AAA Angus Ontario beef, served with 2 certified organic farm fresh eggs, home fries and choice of in-house baked bread.

Did you cut up my steak for me to disguise the amount you gave me? To be fair, this was the cheapest steak and eggs I’ve ever seen on a menu – it was $12 – so it is completely reasonable that you are not getting a massive portion of it. The server had said that the serving is supposed to be 4 oz. but the portion typically ends up being 6 oz. 4 oz. is not huge; that’s the size of a Quarter-Pounder hamburger at McDonald’s. On top of which, GC was not asked how he wanted his steak cooked. Steak is something that everyone has a preference on how they want it cooked. GC typically like medium-well and this steak was medium-rare. The in-house baked baguette was a nice touch.

We liked our breakfast but we didn’t love it. Overall, the service was slow, the food was okay and we weren’t spectacularly impressed. In a city that has such a prominent brunch scene it is hard to make an impact, and unfortunately for us, Scratch Kitchen did not. Brunches of 2015 did not get off to a great start but there are 356 more days to fix that!

Happy munching!