Looks like you need a plane ticket, but this is right in the heart of Toronto — Photo courtesy of Cluney Bistro
'S wonderful. 'S marvelous. Cluny Bistro and Boulangerie in the Distillery District of Toronto is a way to whisk yourself away from it all, while still remaining firmly planted on Canadian soil.
A day at Cluny starts far before the doors open. Bread is kneaded, napkins are folded and specials are memorized.
The boulangerie is home to everything chocolatey and buttery and lovely. Lucky nearby residents come to the restaurant to tuck baguettes under their armpits, doing their best not to tear off hunks mid-route. Restaurant patrons have a similar challenge, with a freshly baked bread basket that perfumes the air with bread so soft, your teeth will consider retiring.
The charming bar area — Photo courtesy of Cluney Bistro
The waiter, with a half smirk on his face, may advise you to go slow with the carbo loading. His smirk will challenge you, and trust us: this is not a battle you will win.
With 11,000 square feet of space, draping ceilings and wine that fills towering bookshelves, this restaurant could easily look empty. Yet on most days, it's filled with the type of chatter that comes alongside an unrushed meal and a great conversation.
Brunch displays rounds of bread on a long wooden table, looking much like a rustic food stylist shoot. The booze menu for this point of day is greater than the menu itself, yet dishes are elegant and rich. You don't need a lot of them to earn a distended belly and a satisfied grin.
The dining room — Photo courtesy of Cluney Bistro
French onion soup has the silkiest of onions and enough cheese to stop the heart of a smaller animal than yourself. Shared amongst two who are companionable enough to split a spoon, it makes for a deliciously stringy appetizer. Bites may get smaller and smaller in the end. This is a bowl to savour.
Then you have a choice to make. Do you reign yourself in after you have consumed your weight in butter by having a meal-sized salad of nicoise or cold poached chicken, or do you admit that life is for the living and sup on shoestring fry poutine smothered in beef bourguignon?
It is a tough decision to make at the best of times, but particularly when you know the food is going to be as special as it always is at Cluny.
French onion soup that's to die (or live) for — Photo courtesy of Cluney Bistro
Dinner items extend to the classic French, with confident stylistic twists. Consider the burgurdy snail "cassoulet" with pork belly and lentils. Or the steak frites, where you are offered not one, but six different cuts of steak to accompany the fries on a journey to your stomach.
The wine list dances between Canada and France, with many varieties offered by the glass. Cocktails are smoky and bold, with rarely a vodka in sight.
Veal meatball with parmesan gnocchi — Photo courtesy of Cluney Bistro
The French are more gourmands than gluttons, and it's best to try to remember that principle, as enticing options tempt you minute by minute.
Cluny is not only a restaurant with exceptional ingredients executed by Master Chef Paul Benallick, but also a place where the staff really care whether you walk away a little happier than when you first entered.
You see what we mean? 'S wonderful, 'S marvelous . . . that Cluny should care for you.