A little piece of T.O. Riviera

We live on a lake but you’d never know it. Torontonians have been robbed of their waterside and there’s no time we feel this stronger than in the heat of summer.

But there’s a culinary solution called The Rectory Café.

IMG_7817First bonus: You get to take a boat there. The Rectory Cafe is situated on Ward’s Island and the gale of a great lake will rush through your hair if you stand on the deck.

Second bonus: You’ll forget you live in Canada’s biggest metropolis and may feel a little Riviera coming on as you settle into the Rectory’s spacious patio and point your chair towards the blue, blue, blue of the lake view beyond.

That’s what we did on a recent lazy Sunday afternoon. We were on our bikes and took the first ferry. No matter that it went to Centre Island. It was a 10 or 15-minute ride past all those Centreville shenanigans to Ward’s idyllic southern boardwalk. Watch for the sign, turn left and enjoy the cafe’s regal lakeside entrance.

IMG_7770No matter if you arrive at their 11 a.m. opening or mid-afternoon, the Rectory’s kitchen keeps the  place hopping all afternoon long and into the evening — especially if the weather is cooperating.

Thanks to a little inside info from the staff, we started with a tall glass of Barking Squirrel amber lager IMG_7768 produced by Toronto microbrewery Hop City. It’s no secret that I love beer and the squirrel really satisfies with its rich burnt orange colour and what Hop City calls “noble hop aroma”.

We paired this with the perfect app: Char Grilled Calamari ($12) draped in a lemon oil and scallion thyme aioli. The calamari was perky and tender to the bite, its inherently bland personality enlivened by a perfectly piquant sauce.

IMG_7783Next, the day’s “special”. If you’re a devotee of Anthony Bourdain, you won’t go near a restaurant special but at the Rectory, it’s a must. This special was so fine, I have to apologize in advance that it’s not on the menu. Imagine the world’s best fish taco: juicy morsels of spice-rubbed Basa fillet topped with caramelized onions and salsa verde on a simple wheat taco softer than a cloud.

David opted for the Steamed Asparagus and Goat Cheese Omelette ($14) IMG_7786and was not disappointed. Okay, omelettes seem simple but can be a disastrous, eggy mess if handled poorly. This one was fluffy, light, and turned by an angel.

I considered dipping a straw into the Rectory’s trendiest drink for dessert. But I was hesitant… did I really want to sip from a tiny can of Italian sparkling wine made from some royals in Austria that have hit the drinking waves with their Prinz Max Emanuel Thurn und Taxis sparkling bianco?

Bucking the trend, I ordered cake instead. The Rectory has a long list of desserts but the best are always, again, the specials made in house by pastry chef Sergio. Even the house-brewed coffee is above average. The only thing that doesn’t seem to work at the Rectory is a rainy day. Most of the seating is al fresco.

That’s why I love their website http://therectorycafe.com/ where you can plug into the weather forecast and the ferry schedule instantly to plan a little Riviera in Hogtown this summer season.

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I live to cook. I love to write. Eating is one of my favourite things to do. All three will merge on this blog.

12 thoughts on “A little piece of T.O. Riviera

  1. This is where I took a dozen girlfriends for a significant birthday…the criteria was that all knew my parents. They let you bring your own wine (for a corkage fee.) so I bundle-buggied prosecco onto the ferry. We didn’t talk about our grandchildren at all. Just our apps. Indoors for lunch in October. We’re still talking about it.

  2. Wish we’d been with you guys. Sounds great. But as a sidenote, basa seems like tilapia-I’d heard of neither of them till about 10 years ago, and now you can’t get away from them. I read an article recently on farmed tilapia that suggested you might as well eat beef. That the feed was primarily corn, and as a result, the nutritional value was nowhere close to that of wild-caught fish. I’ll see if I can track down a link.

  3. Hey Steve, you are right to be concerned about basa. It is listed under Ocean Wise (Vancouver aquarium) as “not recommended”. It is a catfish that is farmed wild in Vietnam and Cambodia and is probably cheaper. I think the concern is not so much nutritional, as sustainability. Fish farmed in open pens in the ocean tend to contaminate the ocean (and all its still-living critters) with their refuse, processed food and drugs like antibiotics.

  4. You sold me with the fish taco…and a barking squirrel of course. And a bike ride on the Island is one of the best kept secrets of T.O!

  5. Read this review and my wife and I decided to check it out. Planned on sailing to the island and called them to find out how let they are open. Was told the kitchen takes the last order at 8:30. Figured we could make it so told them we are coming. Arrive on the island at 8:10 at the only place to tie up my sailboat on Hanlon’s wall, on the other side of the island. Called them as I docked- told them I was coming. They again said I must be there and order by 8:30. Asked if I could order on the phone and give my credit card- they said no. Got on my bike and rode as fast as humanly possible. Arrived at 8:35. Was told I was too late. I guess I shouldn’t have bothered. I admit I was late and I was warned, but is this right? Turns out you can’t get a meal on the island anywhere after 8:30 pm. Hit the pizza pizza at the ferry dock at 9:05. With hundreds of people in line for the ferry, pizza pizza had 1 slice left. World class city? Customer service? Hard to believe this story would be told about New York or Chicago. I guess they make enough money without me. Hope so, because they won’t be getting any of mine.

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