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Introducing: Bannock, Oliver and Bonacini’s new café and restaurant at The Bay’s flagship store

Inside Bannock, the new collaboration between Oliver and Bonacini and HBC (Image: Renée Suen)

It’s no secret that Hudson’s Bay Co. has undergone some big changes in recent years. The retailer’s revitalization project at its Queen Street flagship store, in partnership with Compass Group Canada and Oliver and Bonacini, is the first move toward a national conversion of its food services. To that end, it’s opened up two new restaurants aimed at attracting an increasingly food-conscious public: Foodwares Market, a modern food hall on the lower level, and Bannock, a new restaurant and café at the corner of Queen and Bay.

Named after the traditional Scottish flatbread that was adopted by indigenous people and early settlers, Bannock is the latest addition to the O&B Empire. The 4,348-square-foot, Designum-designed space is part grab-and-go café and part dine-in restaurant. The cheery café side of things, open all day, is on the west end of the Queen Street–facing restaurant. Here, ready-made sandwiches, salads and pastries from O&B Artisan fill long glass cases. Hand-crafted chocolates (some house-made, some made by Soma) are available, as is freshly brewed coffee from the coffee bar. A patio flanking Bay Street comfortably seats 20 and offers a view of Old City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square.

On the east end, Bannock’s clean and modern main dining room is lined with antique pine and concrete panels. A few windows allow diners to peek into The Bay’s men’s department, while interlocking reclaimed hemlock planks form part of the ceiling. In addition to banquettes and wooden chairs surrounding Carrara marble tables, the room also features a long harvest table under a wiry light installation. Orders for the dine-in area’s 68 patrons are filled by chef Paul Brans (Canoe, O&B Canteen) and chef de cuisine Luke Kennedy (Vancouver’s C Restaurant, London’s The Greenhouse and Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill) from Bannock’s centrally located open kitchen.

Bannock’s menu was designed by a team of O&B chefs—including partner Michael Bonacini and corporate executive chef Anthony Walsh—and is inspired by Canada’s regional and cultural diversity. Lunch and dinner options include crowd favourites like the St-Canut pulled pork tourtière ($16)—complete with a package of Heinz ketchup—and the Arcadian Court chicken pot pie ($16), a nod to the historic restaurant and event space on The Bay’s top floor. A pickerel taco comes with cucumber-apple salad and caviar tartar ($11). A poutine-like pizza is topped with roast duck, curds and fries ($15), while a bannock-based version has house-smoked salmon ($14). The Canadiana theme also makes its way to the cocktail list: expect drinks like the Mighty Canuck (vodka, maple syrup–infused lemonade and candied lemon), the Bannock Caesar topped with a maple-bacon garnish and, inevitably, the HBC (vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry juice, peach purée and fresh lime).

Bannock, 401 Bay St., 416-861-6996, bannockrestaurant.ca.

Our Introducing series explores newly opened restaurants, bars and shops throughout the GTA
This is not a review.
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  • GoodTimes

    Its good to see how Toronto’s culinary scene evolves into more exciting adventure. The city was craving such attention from the culinary gods. Good for O&B for taking the leadership in this. ‘Bannock’ has also revitalized the otherwise non-exciting yet very central Toronto intersection. And what’s up with ‘the Bay’? Wow-I applaud them. Finally our city emerges from the self-absorbed shyness to the forefront of class and excitement. More work yet to be done, but we are on a right way.

  • François

    I do hope it is better than the Foodwares market below, where my last lunch was a very banal and expensive experience.

  • TIM DEVLIN

    The upgrades at the Bay are fabulous…a return to a classy story which had become a tired old warehouse. I hope the Bay will add the grocery store and restaurants to the Bloor St. location…this would be fabulous.

  • Darcook

    the food was bland and boring just like canteen…another boring addition to the saturated O&B chain.

  • TO COOK

    Great. Another O&B place that will rake in money and pay their cooks barely minimum wage. I won’t be eating here.

  • Jackontrack

    TO COOK, Bingo! U hit the nail…same here…. taking over with way too much hype. Love TO food scene but not the O & B Bunch…… nah!

  • Jared

    If you’re going to complaint about the income of cooks in this city then you may as well complaint about all those places that pay below minimum wage (daily salaries). O&B actually pays a decent wage.

  • Stan

    Had lunch there yesterday. My friend and I split the BLT Bannock and the Duck Poutine Pizza. Both were pretty good, more so the pizza. I doubt I would be going back unless it is for the pizza.

  • mattagascar

    @ Jared:
    Seriously dude? It’s “complain” not complaint.

  • Jared

    Yeah what the hell I can’t believe I did that.

  • phil

    Ate there yesterday and it was a typical O&B place, over priced and boring. No thanks, I would rather eat on the 8th floor at Great Cooks. O&B stop saturating this city with your chains.

  • Jeff

    was not impressed…not even with the bannock itself.
    only thing decent was the poutine on the pizza. poutine by itself was a miss.

  • Rosa

    Somehow the ugly,cheap paint over cement floor and the expensive macaroni&cheese @ $14.00 do not go together,what a turn off!

  • Marmalade

    I stopped by with a friend to grab a latte. The place was a mess. The staff were too busy chatting to clean up. We crossed the street and went to Starbucks where they know how to bus a table.

 

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