For over a decade, Katherine Rodrigues and Alison Mackenna worked in many of Toronto’s busiest Bay Street restaurants—white-tablecloth affairs where the food sometimes played second fiddle to the atmosphere. So when the two got together with chef and restaurateur Rodney Bowers—of Rosebud, Citizen and Le Petit Castor—the result was bound to put the focus where it belonged. Enter The Gabardine: a cozy yet sophisticated mom-and-pop neighbourhood gastropub smack dab in the middle of Bay Street (true to its location, The Gabardine is closed on weekends).
In the kitchen, Bowers and chef Graham Pratt, of Rosebud and Citizen, turn out unpretentious and hearty fare, like smoked trout with celeriac salad ($13) and a pulled pork sandwich with spicy pickled cabbage ($14). Such starters as salted cod cakes with smoked paprika aïoli ($9) and the large ploughman’s lunch ($17)—with homemade rillettes and pâtés, as well as local cheeses sourced from the Cheese Boutique—are tailor-made for sharing over after-work drinks. A beet risotto with goat cheese and greens ($19) and the beef stroganoff with warm buttered noodles ($23) round out the more filling options. They also serve breakfast from 8 a.m.
The space, formerly home to Blue Stone Grill and Bar, is bright, comfortable and right on trend, with high tin ceilings, warm chestnut floors and bare pine tabletops. Edison light bulbs hang over tables, and re-purposed antique train lights illuminate the bar and the pièce de résistance: a retro, dual-coloured Elektra espresso machine. A giant blackboard by the bar lists local microbrews and classic cocktails that are a hit with the after-work crowd. Hanging on the spare, white walls are framed newspaper clippings and advertisements—including, of course, an old Eaton’s ad for men’s gabardine wool coats.
The Gabardine, 372 Bay St. (at Richmond St. W.), 647-352-3211, thegabardine.com.