Showing posts with label hotel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hotel. Show all posts

Summerlicious lunch at Azure (Toronto)

For a really good deal during Summerlicious, visit a restaurant for lunch. Most establishments offer similar options between lunch and dinner and there’s a $20 difference to merely eat at a different time. Of course, it’s not always feasible to indulge in a 3-course menu on weekdays and some places, if they offer a brunch menu, won’t honour Summerlicious on weekends. Hence, finding a weekend lunch spot can be difficult. Azure, situated in the Intercontinental Hotel downtown, is one option; their central location makes it ideal for visiting before a matinee or an afternoon Blue Jays game.

Their corn soup arrives looking like the typical smooth puréed broth. Then you have a taste and the hit of chili lime mixed with the sweet vegetable creates an interesting summery starter. In the centre, the smoked cheddar biscuit adds a soft doughy chewiness; it’s good, but something crispy or a dollop of corn, onion, and black bean salsa would be even better.

As the pan roasted rainbow trout was presented, I couldn’t take my eyes off the beautiful glistening skin; this is going to be a good piece of fish! I wasn’t disappointed, the skin was impeccably crispy and the meat flaky and moist. With a smear of the refreshing lemon basil pea purée or slightly spicy sundried tomato relish, the main was flavourful and delicious. Even the accompanying well-seared fingerling potatoes, lightly pickled radicchio, and crispy shaved fennel were spot on.

Although the grilled chicken didn’t look impressive, it’s still tender and tasty thanks to the creamy citrusy butter sauce on top. Despite the menu describing the dish as grilled, the chicken seemed poached, it's really juicy and tender. When mixed with the sauce, the bulgur salad is quite delicious, but on its own a tad bland.

Truthfully, I wasn’t a fan of the strawberry tart. For a dessert that sounds light and summery, the strawberry jam gummies and crunchy rosewater candy pieces in the centre were too fussy and sugary. Meanwhile, the lime basil curd filled shortbread tart was nice. If it were simply topped with strawberries and chantilly cream, it’d be more than enough.

My friend's white chocolate cheesecake was a better choice; the rich luscious cake paired with rose wine poached apricots and toasted walnuts. Yet, it’s the cardamom gelato that’s the most surprising, looking like vanilla bean, but adding such a lovely earthy essence against the fruit and cake.

While saving money on the meal, you can splurge on one of Azure’s hand-crafted cocktails. The raspberry cooler ($16), combining raspberry vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup, and muddled fresh raspberries, created a drink that tastes exactly like a raspberry Freezie, complete with the tangy fizz that tickles the back of your throat.

Having visited Azure previously for dinner, it felt like a completely different restaurant during the afternoon. With the dining room’s wall and ceiling glass panels, the sun shone through brightly; it was like sitting outside without the pesky bugs and traffic noise. Then, after a satisfying lunch, Toronto’s downtown attractions is but steps away, perfect for walking off those extra Summerlicious calories.  

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10
Disclaimer: The above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.
Is Summerlicious worth it (based on my meal selection)?
Summerlicious - $28
Regular menu - $55 - soup ($12), rainbow trout* ($29) and strawberry tart ($14)
Savings - $27 or 49%
* Based on pickerel

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 225 Front Street West (in the Intercontinental Hotel)

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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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Celebrating the Queen's 90th with afternoon tea at the Fairmont Royal York

Fairmont Royal York afternoon tea

First of all: is it high tea or afternoon tea? I had incorrectly thought high tea was simply the frou-frou name for the same event. When in fact, according to About Food, afternoon tea is actually the more elite social gathering of the two. Since it happens in the afternoon, the foods served are lighter; small cakes and sandwiches, essentially the items we traditionally link to the occasion. Whereas, high tea occurs in the evening when the working masses are done for the day: meals are heavier, even including items such as fish and meat pies. Hopefully, that assures you I’ve named the post correctly.

The Fairmont Royal York is a great place in Toronto to indulge in afternoon tea. The hotel, a historical landmark to our city, is rich with architectural elements and the elegant touches that makes having tea there an experience.  

Not to rest on their laurels, Executive Chef Robert Mills recently re-vamped the menu, taking inspiration from properties across the world – including the Savoy in Britain – while maintaining some tried and true favourites such as their signature Chantilly Swan. Interesting fact: this pastry was inspired by the hand painted ceiling in one of the hotel’s ballrooms.

My favourite part of their new menu are the sandwiches, made with different breads and topped with plenty of varied ingredients:
  • Vibrantly coloured grilled vegetables sitting on a soft pretzel spread with hummus, great for the summer months.
  • Encapsulated in airy brioche is smoked turkey breast slightly sweetened with cranberry aioli and a crunchy chicken salad mixed with caramelized pecans for added texture.
  • The smoked salmon mini bagels are cute and dainty, the essence of afternoon tea sandwiches.
  • Even the traditional cucumber sandwich is jazzed up by being served open-faced in a beautiful fan and the cream cheese spiked with pink peppercorn.
Yet, Chef Mills understands when to leave things alone, which is the case when it came to the scones. The recipe has been used in the hotel for decades; these freshly baked biscuits simply require plenty of silky Devonshire cream and preserves to spread on top.

The top tier holds a tempting selection of pastries: aside from the cream puff swan there’s also a rich dark chocolate truffle torte, cute meringue tart and a chocolate cup filled with refreshing guava cream with fruits.      

In celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday, I was lucky enough to get invited to experience afternoon tea inside the ROYAL SUITE … the same place the Queen herself (and consequently Prince Harry just the week prior) stays in when they visit Toronto.

With two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a comfortably sized living room complete with fireplace and full dining room (perfect for private dinner parties), the Fairmont Royal York is the official royal residence. In fact, the family even stores personalized furniture at the hotel, which gets moved into the suite before they visit.  

Alas, staying at the Royal suite is by invite only; under normal conditions it hosts other world leaders (Bill Clinton) and an array of celebrities (Leonardo Di Caprio, Justin Bieber, Helen Mirren and Vin Diesel).

As a special treat, Chef Mills served a chocolate biscuit cake (not normally part of their afternoon tea menu), the same cake served at Prince William and Princess Kate’s wedding. Chocolate lovers would swoon with its luscious smooth dark chocolate interior, crunchy bits of cookies along the circumference and silky sweet ganache on top.

It’s a rich cake, but went particularly well with the Librarian Liberation whiskey chai tea, a bespoke blend made at the hotel that smells faintly of whiskey but packed with the taste of exotic spices (cardamom, cinnamon and cloves). The tea is so flavourful it didn’t need milk or sugar.    

Afternoon tea ($50 per person) is normally served in the hotel’s Library Bar (near the lobby) on Saturday and Sunday with 12:00, 12:30 and 2:30 seatings. After the filling meal, stick around for the complimentary tour at 2:00 and 4:00 where you’ll be whisked around the hotel, learning interesting details and even visiting areas not normally accessible to the public (including the hotel’s rooftop that houses over 300 honey bees and herb garden)!

The hotel has come a long way since it started as its own city within Toronto – spoiler alert from the tour: Royal York use to have a connected golf course, bank, 12,000-book library and even hospital beds on site!

Nonetheless, in a world that’s always changing, sometimes it’s nice to embrace tradition, slowing down and simply relaxing over a cup of tea. The fact that the tea comes with three tiers of delectable sandwiches and pastries? You deserve the royal treatment.  

Disclaimer: the above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will still provide an honest opinion.

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 100 Front Street West

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Library Bar - The Fairmont Royal York Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato