Since opening a year and a half ago, this unpretentious gastropub has quickly developed a dedicated following of Bay Streeters, and foodies. I've had a number of memorable meals recently at The Gabardine.
Chef Graham Pratt and his kitchen team have hit a groove — after a number of enjoyable meals in the last few months, I have to proclaim that something special is happening in the kitchen. Whether I pop in for beer and snacks at the marble topped bar, or sit down for dinner with a group, the meals lately have been more than memorable. The Gabardine is templated after a pan-anglo bistro, but within a year the kitchen has developed a sense of confidence that has embraced a more global focus. A steady use of Indian and South American spices, Asian techniques, are married to local ingredients whenever appropriate, not forced.
An approachable wine list covers some local territory with a very affordable price range for a restaurant that's steps away from the Trump Hotel. A large chalkboard of "libations" outlines the beers on tap and in cans. Currently there are four local beers available, two from Duggan's (#9 IPA and #5 Sorachi), the ever popular Beau's Lug Tread lagered ale, and the Steam Whistle pilsner. More local brews are on the way according to co-owner Alison Mackenna. Graham's cooking is very beer-friendly, so I recommend you mix and match, and bring a few friends along with you.
Steam Whistle Pilsner
The 'lightest' beer on the local list is a great start. With just a slight hint of bitterness, and subtle malt flavours, it's great with the brook trout gravlax. The creamy, oily textures of the fish balance nicely with the crispness in the beer, and a generous spread of horseradish creme fraiche adds some zing. It may be meant for sharing, but is perfect as a starter when dining alone at the bar. Also good with the pilsner; the fish taco special. Battered pickerel with avocado crema, pickled cabbage, served with a side of potato salad. If it's on the menu, get it.
Beau's Lug Tread Lagered Ale
Beau's flagship beer has great balance, plenty of malty richness, and an enjoyable amount of bitterness. It's got good depth and complexity, and the fruitiness pops with dishes like the roasted bone marrow, topped with fava beans. British style calf liver is another option, served on top of toast with onions, horseradish aioli, and shoestring potatoes. It's also great with the deep fried beer cheese croquettes, served with maple mustard. Your taste buds will bounce between sweet, sour, and bitter.
Two Duggan's brews are available at The Gabardine. The #9, named for being made with nine traditional ale malts, is a cult hit. It's earthy, balanced with caramel, malt, and citrus fruit tones. If the kitchen has the Korean wings on the menu, get a basket and a bottle of #9. Graham doesn't put the wings on the menu often, and when he does, they sell out quickly. I'm a fan of pairing the lobster rolls, with the #9 but my dining companions want you to know I stand alone in favouring this combination. The Sorachi Lager is a lot lighter on the palate with citrus notes, bready characteristics, and a lighter mouthfeel. It goes well with nearly everything on the menu due to its subtle flavours.
The Sorachi also pairs well with the doughnut dessert. Two lemon cardamom sugared doughnuts served with creme anglaise, and caramel stout. If you're having the pudding chomeur, go with the Beau's Lug Tread. The toffee, and nutty components of the apple cake go wonderfully with the lagered ale.
372 Bay Street (at Richmond)
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Written by Suresh Doss
Suresh Doss is the publisher of SpotlightToronto.com and Rickshawmag.com. Founder of the Food Truck Eats festival, Suresh has been a pioneer for the Street food movement in Toronto. In 2011, He was awarded the VQA Promoter’s Award for outstanding achievement in the Media category in the promotion of Ontario VQA Wines. Suresh is also the Global Editor for Whitecap’s StreetEats series of travel guides, which focuses on the best street food across North America.