Toronto’s A-List Eats

Dine like a star at the city’s best restaurants.

Image courtesy Marben.

Image courtesy Marben.

MARBEN

The Vibe: Marben’s chill atmosphere is all about digging into your gastro pub food and mixers. You’ll find a collection of the after-work business crowd giving cheers to their daily deals and cool 30-somethings who are over the ultra-hipster scene but are still looking for a restaurant that serves up Instagram-worthy food and swank cocktails in a cool setting (think wood artwork above the bar, distressed woods throughout, thrift shop-like finds and huge leather booths).

Who Would Go: Lena Dunham, Jennifer Lawrence, Ryan Gosling

What to Order: Two things you will never, ever go wrong with: The starters and the meat courses. The tapas-like menu means you’ll have to share the spicy, tomato-sauced, crispy potatoes – patatas bravas ($7) – so order more than one helping, otherwise you’ll miss them as soon as the last bit of sauce is scooped up. The second is the old-fashioned John’s burger ($19). Tender, braised beef wrapped in ground beef, topped with pickles and cheddar, and served with piping hot fries, it’s the juiciest burger you’ll ever sink into. Veering away from these two recommendations won’t lead you astray, though. The charcuterie board ($18) and the daily breads ($5) are both winners.

 —Jennifer Weatherhead Harrington

Visit marbenrestaurant.com.

Image courtesy Four Seasons.

Image courtesy Four Seasons.

d|bar AT THE FOUR SEASONS 

The Vibe: See and be seen amidst the Yorkville crowd, so bring out your designer threads. With wood-paneled walls, plush grey seating, wrap-around windows and high ceilings, the setting is modern and spacious. As the main floor restaurant at the newly opened Four Seasons Hotel, this is a favourite destination for A-listers, who flock here for the attentive, discreet service.

Who Would Go: Jennifer Aniston, Kate Bosworth, Al Pacino

What to Order: With a menu designed by famed chef Daniel Boulud, expect to dine on soulful dishes done in a contemporary style. Start with a movie-themed artisanal cocktail like The King’s Speech ($18), which features peach vodka, pistachio syrup, lemon juice and barrel-aged bitters. Order a sampling of dishes to share, like the Cheese Board ($28), Chickpea & Eggplant dips ($17) and Crispy Artichokes ($15). Make friends with your sweet tooth and finish with a plate of freshly baked madeleines.

Visit dbartoronto.com.

Nancy Gray

Image courtesy The Chase.

Image courtesy The Chase.

THE CHASE

The Vibe: Dress to impress at this elegant, upscale restaurant, complete with a large rooftop terrace, indoor-outdoor bar and a stunning view of the city’s financial district. Its location caters to the suits from Bay Street (who have the expense accounts to boot), but inside, white crown moulding, black-and-white marble floors, velvety chairs and glistening chandeliers make you feel like a New York society swan.

Who Would Go: Reese Witherspoon, Jessica Chastain, Jake Gyllenhaal

What to Order: Sip classic cocktails (swirl The Admiral with Scotch, cassis, rose and cava at the bar) or Old World wine. Bring a friend and share the whole roasted chicken dinner for two ($71), stuffed with foie gras and Armagnac-soaked brioche perched on an assortment of winter vegetables. The result is heavenly. Save room the Lime dessert ($10), an angel food cake layered with coconut cream and lime curd. Trust us, it’s worth the calories added and it’s so light you won’t feel an ounce of guilt. Head downstairs to the Chase Fish & Oyster for a larger cocktail selection and casual vibe.

Nancy Gray

Visit thechasetoronto.com.

The SE21 Burger. Image by Justin Harrington.

The SE21 Burger. Image by Justin Harrington.

SPEAKEASY 21

The Vibe: Don’t be fooled by the name — you don’t need to know a secret password to get into this speakeasy. Found on the main floor of the Scotia Plaza, after-work happy hour at this Prohibition-inspired resto-bar is always in full swing. Looking for an escape from the daily grind, you’ll discover superb cocktails and high-end, yet approachable food.

Who Would Go: Anna Kendrick, Gerard Butler, Ben Affleck

What to Order: As expected, drinks are serious business here. The extensive Libations menu offers custom-crafted cocktails (nothing is less than 2.5 ounces) like the Canadian Cooler ($15), a combo of Eristoff vodka, lime juice, simple syrup, mint leaves and cucumber slices served in a Mason jar. The fare menu is almost equally as eclectic, featuring shared items like the crispy Salt Cod Croquettes and non-shared items such as the Fried Chicken Club sandwich ($18) topped with guacamole, arugula and smoked chili aioli.

Visit speakeasy21.com.

Stephanie Gray

Image courtesy Montecito.

Image courtesy Montecito.

MONTECITO

The Vibe: Co-owned by filmmaker Ivan Reitman (of Animal House and Ghostbusters fame), this 12,000-square-foot, California-inspired restaurant is just steps away from the TIFF Bell Lightbox. The central location means King Street-sleek, so dress downtown cool. Black-and-white movie stills, film paraphernalia, and director-inspired chairs will transport you to Hollywoodland. Head to the upstairs lounge if you’re in the mood for cocktails.

Who would go: Jennifer Garner, Robert Pattinson, Kristen Bell

What to order: Try the Pimm’s Cup ($14) with strawberry, grapefruit and Peychauds bitters, or the Gorgeous Gunners ($12) made with Montecito lime-leaf vodka, Montanaro bianco and house strawberry tonic. Don’t miss the house specialty JW Chicken ($24) roasted and served on herbed greens with fresh salsa verde. Finish with the Ghostbusters tribute dessert, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man baked Alaska ($12): marshmallow ice cream, marshmallow fluff and fluffy-crisp meringue ... yes, please.

Visit montecitorestaurant.ca.

Nancy Gray

Image courtesy Colette.

Image courtesy Colette.

COLETTE GRAND CAFÉ

The Vibe: A little taste of Paris at one of Toronto’s hippest hotels, the Thompson Toronto, think of this brightly lit, French-inspired café as the perfect spot to sip on champagne with your girlfriends on a Sunday morning, or a romantic date-night spot thanks to discrete tables for two and private nooks. Book a table on the airy patio when it’s warm, wear a chic dress and get ready to mix and mingle with the posh set.

Who would go: Anne Hathaway, Kate Winslet, Benedict Cumberbatch

What to order: Cozy up in one of the high, plush cornflower blue booths for the restaurant’s new brunch menu and order a tall mimosa or a creamy latte before tucking into the spread – a fresh seafood bar, healthy quinoa salads with beets and nuts, sundried tomato and feta quiche, and omelettes any way you like. Save room (seriously, make sure you do) for the scones, pastries and mini cakes. For dinner you can’t go wrong with the Lobster Vichyssoise ($24) with creamy chilled potato and leek soup and a sweet corn quiche lives up to expectations. The house favourite Soufflé au Chèvre ($16) is a sweet and savoury combo of soft goat cheese, warm beets and a crunchy walnut crust that will satisfy any vegetarian. And you can’t get much more French than a grilled flat iron steak topped with a basil and chili butter and served with a side of crispy frites ($29).

Visit colettetoronto.com.

Jennifer Weatherhead Harrington

This story originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2014 Issue of Travel & Style Magazine.