CLOSED: Splendido Revisited for Brunch (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 88 Harbord Street

Type of Meal: Brunch

Having only been to Splendido for Winterlicious dinner, it was great to be able try something completely different – brunch. Unlike most places, they take reservations and offer a luxurious and leisurely experience. Their “two-course” brunch menu is a standard $35.

The first shared spread really embodies bringing the tastes of breakfast and lunch together. For lunch, the board is filled with cheese, cured ham, terrine, pickled vegetables, olives and a savoury parfait (a chicken liver mousse with blueberry compote during our visit). Whereas breakfast is showcased in the basket of carbs - mini cranberry scones, croissants, pain au chocolate (chocolate croissant) and a soft crusty bread arrives alongside butter, flavoured whipped cream cheese and tomato preserve to spread across them.

The rectangular slabs of terrine were delicious, the fattiness and saltiness well balanced so it wasn’t too heavy for the first meal of the day. Of course, the juicy grainy mustard was a great addition and I could have easily just eaten that with bread. Similarly, the thinly sliced cured ham was salty and fresh and great that it was non-waxy. The sole meat product that was too strong for my taste was the chicken liver parfait – but it’s a personal preference as I’ve never been a fan of liver and my friends enjoyed it. Lastly, the small bowl of pickled vegetables and olives helped cleanse the palette after all the meat, cheeses and greasy carbs.

A big scone lover I was a bit disappointed with the small sized ones from Splendido - truly they should be categorized more as a cookie than scone. Although they were flavourful and buttery, it lacked the fluffy centre that makes scones so delicious. Generally, I’m not one to shy away from butter but the greasiness of the croissant turned me off… sure butter is nice but when it soaks into all the flaky layers so that the middle sort of sticks together when you bite into it, that is too much. Needless to say none of us actually needed the pats of butter on the board. The crusty bread was more up my alley since I actually got to use the delicious cream cheese and light refreshing preserve with it.

When they called to confirm our reservation, Splendido asked about eating restrictions and special occasions. So, they also had a plate of soft buffalo mozzarella and sliced avocado ready for my vegetarian friend. Having snuck a taste of the cheese it was soft and fresh – what a commendable personalization for guests!

After the platter had some time to sink in, it was whisked away and our second course arrived. The mussels and frites intrigued me and having recently had a great experience at Beer Bistro a couple of weeks earlier, I was looking forward to having them again. Splendido’s cooking liquid/sauce was simple with shallots, fennel, merguez (a type of sausage) and white wine. It needed a bit more flavour, I had saved a piece of bread to dip into the broth and found it relatively bland.

Moreover, if this is an item they plan on serving into the future it’d be nice to invest in the proper dishes – a deep pot for the mussels to keep them warm (mine quickly cooled with the shallow dish) and smaller bowls for discarding shells would be nice. All in all, they weren’t horrible. The mussels were a good size with a hefty portion of them and the fries piping hot, crispy and delicious, so with a couple of changes the dish could easily be improved.

By the second course I was getting full so didn’t even want to eat off everyone else’s plates so the comments of the dishes below are based off observation and my friends’ comments.

The open face lobster sandwich ($5 supplement) mixes in fairly hefty chunks of lobster with avocado puree and celery. The mayonnaise incorporates ginger and tarragon giving it a nice fresh taste, which was needed to cut through the buttery grilled cheese style bread. I did have one of the black pepper and lime potato chips but really couldn’t taste any of the seasoning; these were okay but the fries much better.

Not much was said about the Cumbrae’s flank steak and eggs except that the pat of beurre de Paris (a compound butter) was a nice addition. From what I could see, the steak was cooked to a decent medium doneness. Having had a taste of the side kale salad it was dressed lightly and sweetened with some dried cranberries.

Somehow it never seems to be brunch without eggs benedict, a tried and true favourite. Splendido switches out the ham with a choice of smoked salmon or avocado. My friend commented that the English muffin the eggs were sitting on top was very crispy. The poached eggs also seemed to be expertly prepared and simply oozed as it was cut into.

Our service that morning was as impeccable as my dinner experience a year earlier. Brunch also seems to be a popular sitting for the restaurant with almost all the tables occupied by the end of our meal. So if you’re in the mood for a two hour decadent brunch, Splendido could be the place for you. 

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!