Toronto’s entertainment scene continues to evolve with today’s hipsters seeking the refined enjoyment of sleek, upscale resto-lounges — go for the food, stay for the drinks and vibe.
TSEvents e-news takes a look at a few of the latest resto-lounge hotspots:
House of Moments
At 12,000 sq. ft., the House of Moments, located on Carlaw just south of Gerrard Street, is an inspired stage for events including receptions, product launches, fashion shows, and media shoots. Far East collectibles fuse with industrial chic, feeding menu and ambience at the art gallery cum resto-lounge. Lofty 15 ft. ceilings tower over ancient Eastern sculptures, doors and artifacts that blend beautifully with the work of emerging artists on stylishly lit walls.
The menu leans to shared plates of exquisitely presented Japanese cuisine, a perfect accompaniment to setting and DJ spun world beats. Great energy flows throughout, from the fab art gallery (Capacity: 350) to adjacent dining room and bar (Capacity: 150). Two private rooms include an art-filled lounge, perfect for entertaining up to 40 VIPs. A rooftop patio is on the books for next year.
Just when you thought INK Entertainment’s Charles Khabouth and restaurateur Hanif Harji of ICON Legacy had hit their creative zenith supplying the city’s latest and greatest, they spin their golden touch into Weslodge, a modern-day high-end saloon. Huge sunny yellow doors front the two-level King Street resto-lounge. Inside, dark wainscotting backdrops tastefully clever Wild West accents like big-game antlers and the stuffed buffalo head that gazes down from behind the long stone-topped bar.
Diners at the back of the main floor dining room and bar (Capacity: 90 seated) are within prime ogling distance of action in the glassed-in open kitchen. Upstairs is private dining for up to 16. Quality whiskies and perfectly mixed premium cocktails arrive in cut-crystal barware. The kitchen elevates simple comfort classics with finessed touches such as a tomatillo relish garnished burger, and a juniper-rubbed bison striploin and green olive tabouli. Prix fixe menus available for groups of eight or more.
The Khabouth-Harji dynamic duo strikes yet again (see Weslodge above), this time using Spain as their muse at just-opened Patria. Savoury, authentically prepared Spanish cuisine plays out in robust and flavourful mains, tapas plates and cooked-to-order table-shared paella paired with an impressive list of regional vintages, most not found on liquour store shelves.
Eye-catching touches infuse sultry beauty into the room (Capacity: 120 seated). Three large, gilt-framed paintings of Spanish women hover over a cluster of banquettes. Edgy copper light fixtures float down from above. A row of stamped meat cleavers hang artfully on one dining wall spelling out “full stomach, happy heart” in Spanish. On the stairway wall leading up to a private dining nook (Capacity: 16), a stunning, intricate custom cross-stitch art installation overlays a painting of a flamenco dancer. A window-wall overlooks a 50-seat patio.
Michael’s On Simcoe
Soft launched during September’s Toronto International Film Festival, Michael’s On Simcoe is one of the newest VIP entertaining scenes with expense account-worthy prime steaks, seafood and powerhouse cocktails. Hollywood glitterati, such as Will Smith, Danny Glover, Emily Blunt and Colin Firth, graced the space’s inaugural weeks.
Fine white-linen drapes dining tables and lush banquette seating receive a wash of sublime mood lighting that accents the sparkle of cubed lighting fixtures and a breathtaking glass curtain wall accent piece. Colour-splashed modern art pops from the canvas of white walls. A glass-enclosed wine cellar is the great divide between dining room (Capacity: 84 seated) and lounge-bar and reception area (Capacity: 125) where an impressively long bar features designer seating for 15. Great DJ vibe and valet parking available, of course!
With over 400 brands of every spirit imaginable, a lengthy cocktail list and a can-do attitude to any drink request, it’s no surprise to discover SpiritHouse is also the training ground for the Toronto Institute of Bartending. A bustling wraparound bar is the main attraction of the leather banquette-lined room (Capacity: 100). Vintage wall photos and warm lighting add to a decidedly Prohibition speakeasy feel. A smaller back room works for private events.
A limited but well-done menu ensures good food such as bourbon-brushed sliders, duck confit nachos and whiskey-laced poutine lessens the potential blow of well-poured drinks. Treat the group to a sampling of the bar’s signature barrel-aged and bottled cocktails, or order up tequila or rum tasting flights. SpiritHouse is located at Adelaide and Portland Streets.
Sazerac Gastro Lounge
Sazerac Gastro Lounge takes its name from America’s first original cocktail created in New Orleans in 1850. That namesake is definitely the first clue that bartending moxy is an in-house specialty with updated twists on speak-easy classics such as the Manhattan, Negroni and Pimm’s Cup. Southern influences also extend to the menu’s affinity for Cajun and Acadian cuisine.
The second-floor walk up at King and Bathurst Streets is loft-like. Long and narrow, exposed brick walls set off simple furnishings and glowing wood. Dining tables front-end the room with bench-like lounge seating and bar in the back half. Rotating DJs play a diverse mix of sounds including jazz, but the room is also kitted out for live bands and dance parties (Capacity: 142). The venue is available for private buy out.