The Libertine (Toronto)

The Libertine

The Libertine has new owners - friends Matt, Phil and Swiss who have worked there previously and understands visitors. Libertine has similarities to its predecessor: the mysterious speakeasy theme, a small plate format menu and champagne glass cocktails. Customers continue to visit the Toronto lounge for their laid back vibe: there aren’t snooty bouncers, minimum spends or dress codes in effect.

But, with the new ownership comes a new menu. Most dishes are snack style, with the sole larger plate being a panko cod with slaws ($30).  It’s certainly multi-cultural with Middle Eastern, Asian, Italian and American influences. Given Chef J.P.’s background, the Middle Eastern plates are the strongest with well-balanced flavours and sparks of originality.

The falafel blinis ($9 for three pieces), is a dish made up of many tastes but is combined in a way that works. Spiced falafels are flattened slightly to give it more surface area to develop a crunchy crust. It’s then placed on a sweet maple blini and topped with candied bitter melon, swiss chard slaw, crunchy fennel and a smooth cumin tahini. These are certainly much too delicious to be gluten-free and vegan friendly.

The Libertine Toronto: falafal

Another delightful gluten-free vegan dish is the coconut and pecan arancini ($7). The creamy risotto, cooked in coconut soy milk, gives the balls a tropical Thai feel. But, it’s the gochujang (a fermented Korean chili paste) almond butter, paired with the arancini that makes the dish: adding a nutty spicy kick to balance the risotto’s sweetness and keeps the dish savoury.

The Libertine Toronto: arancini

Libertine’s hummus ($6) is rich and smooth with soft chickpeas on top to give the dip a meaty texture. Plenty of smoky paprika coated pitas accompany the hummus for dipping.

The Libertine Toronto: hummus and dip

The mac ‘n’ cheese balls ($8 for three pieces) is definitely not short of flavours with the chipotle mayo and garlic & cheese sauce, which is strong and sharp. They arrive piping hot with a wonderful crust, but would be even better if the cheese sauce had a molten stringy texture... it’s the gooey decadence that makes it coveted and sinful.

The Libertine Toronto: Mac N Cheese Balls

The pork and potato Asian slaw ($9) would excite any carnivore with its meat to vegetable ratio - there are so many pieces of soft pork tossed in a sweet Chinese cha shiu sauce! The slaws are dressed right before serving so the cabbage retains its crisp texture. I would have liked the chips to be served on the side as once mixed into everything they become soggy. 

The Libertine Toronto: Asian pork slaw

A popular dish at Libertine is their baby clam po’ boys ($9). J.P. dresses the sandwich with pickled white turnips, rainbow chard, an apple cilantro mayo and a spicy kick from the scotch bonnet sauce. It was only the house-made buttermilk bun that was a miss for me - although delicious on its own, it was much too heavy and overpowered the delicate clams.

The Libertine Toronto: clam po boy

Their daily dessert ($7) was cinnamon sugar dusted churros that came with a fabulous coconut dulce de leche sauce. I could have had that sauce on anything – pound cake, waffles, crepes – it makes anything delicious.

The Libertine Toronto: churros

Most people go to Libertine for their drinks. Although they all look similar, the flavours couldn’t be more different:
  • The Giver ($14) is my drink - refreshing and aromatic made with gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, chartreuse and lime.
  • The Marguereta ($14) is the most easy drinking of the four with tequila, Aperol, orange juice, lemon and honey.
  • The Queen bitch ($13) is surprising – I wasn’t sure what gin, cacao, lillet and lemon would taste like together. But, the cacao is a great addition adding a lovely aroma and unique flavour.
  • With the 94 proof kraken black spice rum you know the Dirty Nellie ($15) is going to be strong. Then there’s bourbon added to it as well! Although it’s by no means a light drink, the lemon and grapefruit does help to mellow it out.

The Libertine Toronto: drink

Even if you’ve been to the Libertine, with the new ownership, it may be time to check them out again. The menu’s been simplified with food as varied and unique as their cocktails. But it’s their laidback friendly vibe that keeps you coming back. I’m over the days of waiting in lines only to be crammed into a bar like a sardine. So, it’s refreshing to find a place you can visit in flip flops or heels and feel just as welcomed. The fact that you can get a great arancini when you’re drunk, that’s just a bonus.    

Overall mark - 7 out of 10
Disclaimer: The meal was complimentary. But, as noted in Gastro World's mission statement, I will always provide my honest opinion.

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1307 Dundas Street West

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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!

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