Thursday 7 May 2015

Inevitably we awake at what is for the locals an early hour.  Dressed we wander out again on to “Elm” for breakfast but we are so early that the chosen destination is as yet not open for breakfast so out of simplicity we return to the hotel.

Photos for today can be found on Flickr here

This morning it is an organised city tour and we steadily perambulate around the city in a Greyhound bus.  And I can quite see why this city is attractive, although no doubt expensive.  The core of the City is quite compact and does largely comprise relatively modern buildings; however alongside these are older buildings and where there is an important frontage this is often retained with a the newer building rising behind the facade.

The old waterfront area is being completely regenerated; former railway marshalling yards and docks have been swept away – all land which was claimed from the waterways many many years ago.  Now new apartment blocks (condos) are being built with more to come, new moorting areas for boats and no doubt fancy prices to match.  One area that has been restored is the Distillery area and this is the only “stop” on the tour as we wander around what has been turned into a shopping and dining area, following the ending of the need for the docks themselves as goods are transported in different ways.  Our visit was around 10:30 in the morning and we did not see it as the very active place it no doubt becomes in the evenings.

Visible from just about everywhere is the CN Tower and I shall return to this magnificent edifice tomorrow when we visit it.  The Canadian banks did not get enmeshed in the financial problems of the last 7 – 8 years and they remain strong with immense skyscrapers demonstrating their strength in practical form in the financial district.

Entertainment is also strong, although an attempt to see “Kinky Boots” failed as it has not yet opened. And the local love of brewing seems to be a high priority. We see various examples of breweries during our stay and the quality of the beer is good.

In the evening the use of Trip Advisor pointed us at a restaurant called “Richmond Station” and so we took a gentle walk down Yonge until we reached Richmond Street.  Looked left, no luck.  Looked right – there it is across the road.  We walk in and not having a booking seems to cause a major disturbance in the ether as if such people as us did not exist.  Eventually we were offered the ability to sit upstairs outside the kitchen area – but the table was needed back in 75 minutes (bit quick); or we could sit at a high table in the lower area for 90 minutes, either side by side or opposite each other.  We chose the final option and after a further hurried discussion among the staff they identified which stools (with backs) we might occupy. This lack of knowledge continued when a very nice waitress joined us and tried (as is her right) to upsell us to the tasting menu – but we reckoned that completing this in 90 minutes might prove a challenge.  By now we were wondering if we had chosen correctly.

Never mind we chose an IPA for me, cider for my good lady wife, a carafe of local Gamay to follow; for food we agreed to share starters – a special of pig’s blood (black pudding) on sourdough and another one with main courses of halibut fish for Jackie whilst I selected another special a duo of lamb.

As we wait and the place starts to fill up and is clearly a popular restaurant with the post work crowd.  The higher table around us soon fills with a diverse collection of diners.  Meanwhile neither the IPA or the cider are rated quite as highly as the drinks at Elm Street the previous evening.

The starters come not together but sequentially.  Both are of good quality and well presented and soon demolished.  The black pudding equivalent being an excellent representation of the dish.  Delivery of the food is by male waiting staff – I am not entirely sure if they are also kitchen staff, but I think they may be as they are not generally waiting tables.

The lamb duo I am presented with is larger than I had expected with some nice slices of a lamb rump cooked pink and just right alongside a confit of belly lamb of decent size.  We rarely see this latter treatment in the UK with lamb, although it is common with pork, an it was a nice contrast – and almost too much too eat.  My wife also found the halibut that she was eating was properly cooked and of a good plateful.

Based on our relatively small sample (one still to come) the kitchens of Toronto have access to good suppliers of quality food and are able to cook it to perfection as well as deliver it to the table with knowledgeable and friendly staff.  The young waitress who took our order originally pops back for a chat (easily identifying our foreign accents) – at least until it starts to get really busy; but they do seem interested in travellers and what and why and where we are going – far more of an international outlook than one might find in the US.

All of which warms me to Toronto as a wonderful city and Canada more generally.