Posts Tagged: fine dining


9
Jan 14

Shangri-La Toronto

Rising by Shanghai-based sculptor, Zhang Hua.

Rising by Shanghai-based sculptor, Zhang Hua.

“What’s that?” I asked my cab driver, “It’s gorgeous.” ‘It’ was a silvery sculpture that reached into the sky and bought to mind flight and freedom right there on the pavement in downtown Toronto.

“It’s the Shangri La” said my driver.

“You’re kidding!” I said. “I’m staying there tomorrow.”

I can’t help myself; I get giddy with delight over a fancy hotel. Holly Golightly may have gone weak at the knees over Tiffany, but for me it’s a top class hotel that makes me think:      “…the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there.” The check-in was fast, the service with a real smile and within minutes I was leaving the airy lobby with its Fazioli piano and zipping up to my room. When you notice details like how cool the carpets are (reminiscent of cherry blossom and bamboo leaves) as you trot to your room, then you can bet that your socks will be suitably knocked off when you get inside.

They were.

shangrila2

I know. It’s just carpet. But really – it’s more than that. It’s about the attention to detail and making every small thing beautiful.

I was wondering how Toronto would compare to Vancouver and the TO did not disappoint; a ludicrously huge and comfy bed, a decadent bathroom with a big-enough-for-two soaker tub overlooking the city and a satisfyingly high count of amenities from emery boards and tooth brushes to a mini-loofah and lashings of L’Occitane to raid.

mirajTO

Curl up and relax…

I was there to check out the sister spa to the Miraj in Vancouverthis is a glossier and more sophisticated version of the great little hammam on West 6th – but the principal remained the same -  and the treatment and therapist was just as good – leaving me to relax on satiny cushions admiring my equally silky skin after a heavenly steam, skin-brightening scrub and a final oil application.

Modern fine dining

Modern fine dining

Drinks in the lobby lounge later were a treat – the menus come tucked away in a little compendium of books and champagne buckets stand ready for your bubbles. I’d heard wonderful things about the Bosk restaurant, and after a slew of strictly casual fine dining experiences, it was lovely to feel that here was a restaurant worth dressing up for. Bosk may have an east coast address but it certainly had a west coast feeling with local, organic and sustainable woven through the menu and the seafood treated with loving care. A pleasingly large by-the-glass wine selection makes food pairing a pleasure – my advice? Ask the sommelier to match for you – you won’t be disappointed and you’ll definitely try delicious new things.

I travelled as a guest of Tourism Toronto and stayed as a guest of the Shangri-La– all views are, however 100% my own.

More Info:

The Shangri-La

188 University Ave, Toronto, ON M5H 0A3

Phone:(647) 788-8888

Web:  Shangri-La Toronto


31
Jan 13

Hawksworth: just a year old and already a Canadian classic

If you ask any foodie in Vancouver for their top five restaurant picks, it’s likely that Hawksworth will be on every list. One of Vancouver’s most ritzy restaurants, Hawksworth is in the deliciously decadent Rosewood Hotel Georgia. I first ate there just over a year ago, a few months after it had first opened,  that meal was inspirational. Deft touches of molecular gastronomy, everything beautifully-considered and oh! deep, rich flavours and exciting food combinations. Chef David Hawksworth and his team deservedly scooped a brace of ‘Best New‘, ‘Most Exciting‘, ‘Most Fabulous Opening‘ awards after that first year. But a year on, what next? 

Easily the most glamorous room in town

Easily the most glamorous room in town

After a glittering opening, expectations are high but all those ‘Best New...’ awards can’t be won when you’re no longer the new kid on the block. I went back recently for dinner; less showy than that first meal, I feel like Hawksworth has taken a mature direction. The new kid grew up fast. My sense is that instead of concentrating on culinary fireworks, which dazzle then fade away, what’s happening over at Hawksworth looks set to become a Canadian classic. What do I mean? Well, their angus beef tenderloin was hands-down the most delicious I’d tasted. No molecular gastronomy flashes, no glitz, just meltingly-soft with a purity of flavour that left me wishing I could eat it every single Sunday as a roast for the rest of my life.

Simple, beautiful, perfect

Simple, beautiful, perfect

There’s an authority to the food at Hawksworth, nothing feels try-hard. The desert menu seems to be the place that Chef is allowing his more mischievous side to come out – chocolate, lime and avocado appear together along with a vanilla custard ‘buddha’s hand’ with pink grapefruit and sesame.

It’s kind of refreshing, in a city that seems to pop its collective cork over every new opening, to walk past Hawksworth and see a busy room on almost any night in the week. The smart set haven’t moved on. Hawksworth was one of the most exciting places to eat in Vancouver when it opened, and for my money, it absolutely still is. So cheers, here’s to a new Canadian classic.

I ate as a guest of Hawksworth, however, my views are 100% my own.


3
Jan 13

Whistler dining from A(raxi) to B(earfoot Bistro)

They know how to have a good time, those Whistler folk. If they’re not ski-ing, boarding, or snow shoeing across the stunning slopes, they’re throwing a party. On my last trip the film festival was in full swing and the town buzzing with excitement over celebrity visitors, Channing Tatum and Rashida Jones. Daniel Radcliffe was in town, staying at the gorgeous Fairmont Hotel – so was I! And I still missed seeing him.

Feel close to nature in gorgeous Whistler

Clearly my celeb-spotting skills are a little rusty, but even I was able to spot that Whistler has some of BC’s best restaurants. I’ve wanted to eat at Araxi and the Bearfoot Bistro for a few years and on this trip, I finally got round to it. I’m starting to see that there’s perhaps something of a West Coast connection  - inspired after a long discussion with my East Coast friend, Alyssa: that if you live in such extreme beauty, you feel connected to nature in a way that you probably don’t if you live in a huge urban sprawl. Seeing the mountains every day and living seasonally makes you appreciate the world of nature and want to protect it. That’s the theory anyway and as Whistler has summer and winter food and wine festival events I reckon this belief in keeping food as fresh, seasonal and local as possible shines through with menus that feel perfectly in harmony with nature.

Beautifully briny oysters and delicate pearly-pops of flavour

Araxi is probably one of the most technically-proficient and artfully flavourful restaurants I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. Everything from the ice-wine cocktail I began my meal with to the hidden treasures within the oh-so-innocent looking chocolate dessert (which spilled over with cream and fruit after the first spoonful) delighted me. Briny oysters came topped with pearls of cucumber, flawlessly seared tuna also came dressed in pearls – this time of soy – which delivered a perfect umami pop of flavour with each bite.

Almost (but not quite) too beautiful to eat

One of my new favourite things is beet salad and the one here came topped with a candy-striped variety that made me beam with pleasure. A wonderful wine list, superb service and pleasingly-intimate room made this probably one of the best ‘date’ restaurants you could ever visit.

Come on in, the vodka’s just right!

In contrast, the Bearfoot Bistro also has an exciting menu, but with a double-portion of fun on the side. Its owner, Andre Saint-Jacques, has created an atmosphere of pure decadent devilry here, from the champagne room in the cellar, where you can learn to saber a bottle of Moet according to Napoleonic tradition, (exciting fun and you get to keep the top that you chop off!) to the Belvedere ice room where you wrap up in polar parkas and knock back frozen vodka shots. The theatrics don’t stop with the drinks, where else would you get ice cream made at your table with billowing dry ice? My stand-out dish here was a rich risotto topped with perfect scallops. Oh – and more beets! This time served multi-coloured and cubed in a shot glass of creamy whipped goat’s cheese. I tried my first sparkling ice cider here and fell in love on the spot.

Why open champagne by popping the cork when you can simple CHOP ITS HEAD OFF!

I was trying to think afterwards, which did I prefer and I honestly couldn’t decide. Both were perfect for completely different reasons. I’d want a party with friends and endless bottles over wonderful seafood at Bearfoot, and I’d pick Araxi as my go-to place for any occasion that demanded something just a little bit special. Lucky Whistler people having those choices right on their doorstep.

I travelled as a guest of Tourism Whistler – however, my views are 100% my own.

Find out more: Visit Whistler and Keep Exploring Canada

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