CLOSED: SpeakEasy 21 (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 21 Adelaide Street West (street level)
Type of Meal: Lunch

Newly opened in Scotia Plaza (street level by the Winners), SpeakEasy 21 is a welcomed addition and hopefully a worthy replacement for the South of Temperance, which has closed with the construction of phase 2 of the Bay Adelaide Centre. With its central location and accessibility through the PATH, it will likely become popular with the corporate crowd.

Our first visit for Thursday drinks (and potential dinner) gave us a taste of the "Liberations" portion of the menu. Indeed, their specialty cocktails are not cheap ($14.50), but with an entire page dedicated to them it's also hard to pass up.

The Mercier is great for those who like easy going fruity drinks without the sweetness. The Eristoff vodka is barely noticeably once the mango puree, tart lemon juice and lemongrass cordial is added. Topped with soda water and spiked with a bit of grated ginger it’s a refreshing and energizing cocktail. 

Meanwhile, the Sister's Shadow is a tad sweeter (not overly so) and packed with pear flavours from the Grey Goose pear and pear juice. The addition of elderflower liqueur adds a nice floral contrast that gives the cocktail a nice twist. 

Unfortunately, they were overcrowded during our opening week visit so service was painfully slow and it ended up taking almost 45 minutes to get our first round of drinks. To be fair, our waitress was friendly and did warn us that the bar was backed up. But really, 45 minutes is a bit excessive, so much so that some of our fellow diners refused to stay for dinner and we left to eat elsewhere.

Luckily, I understand that every restaurant needs to work out its kinks, especially during their soft launch period. So, I went back for a weekday lunch when there was less people and hoped for a better experience. 

During this visit, we ordered off of the much smaller "Fares" side of the menu. Despite the limited selection, we had no problems finding something appetizing sounding. The pressed short-rib sandwich ($17) sounded interesting with slices of beef, caramelized onion, confit cabbage, gruyere cheese and pickles packed into a bun and toasted. The sandwich is flavourful and ends off with a light zing from the horseradish – a great addition, if only there was more of it!

A more elaborate version of pulled pork, it’s a tender, saucy and indulgent sandwich. For me, the beef slices could have been thicker as they became somewhat lost under all the gruyere and toppings. Additionally, it was a bit heavy and could have benefited from a splash of something fresh to cut through the beef and cheese (perhaps arugula). But, these are some minor nitpicky detail for my tastes; I still enjoyed the sandwich.  Served with a choice of side salad or kettle chips, the portion size is quite substantial leaving me full and satisfied.

My coworkers opted for the whitefish and bulgogi tacos which arrived packed with ingredients and accompanied by a miniature hot sauce. Although I didn’t get a chance to try it, my coworkers said they were delicious and I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

The media has been reporting a 3,500 square foot patio is slated to open when the weather warms up. There’s no doubt I’ll be back for more drinks and perhaps a taste of tacos as well.

In May I returned for a taste of their new lunch menu, read about this new experience on my revisit post

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - 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!