The Gladstone Hotel Ballroom Cafe
1214 Queen Street West
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $35
Okay, so to be straight up honest, it’s not actually Sunday when we visit to do this review. It’s the morning of January 1st, and the oldest continually operating hotel is Toronto is serving up brunch – not to weary travellers as it did so many years ago, but to hungover locals and hipsters looking for something hearty and filling to ease them into the new year.
The high windows of the south-facing ballroom cafe normally have warm sunlight streaming through them, but today it’s a grey view of wet snow. The servers are bright-eyed and smiling, however, and water and coffee arrive at our table quickly.
The menu has expanded somewhat since the last time we were here, and the selection of house-made croissants and pastries ($1.50 – $2) and a few basics such as French Toast and The Ploughman’s Breakfast have been fortified with brunch standards such as Eggs Benedict and a daily fritata special.
The Eggs Florentine ($13.95) is Chef Marc Breton’s version of a classic. Fresh raw spinach and lightly smoked, almost sweet, salmon are served atop a light fluffy house-made croissant. The poached eggs run golden and soft when pierced and the hollandaise is smooth, warm and has just the right zing of lemon. A heaping helping of homefries are crisp on the outside and a fluffy dose of necessary carbs on the inside.
The house specialty is called the Nitty Gritty breakfast ($9.95) and is comprised of two eggs any style, grilled ham, beans, toast and more of those ethereal homefries. Despite its name, this is a high-class version of a typical diner breakfast; the beans are sweet with maple syrup, and the ham tender, not rubbery.
The Gladstone Ballroom Cafe serves breakfast everyday starting at 7am on weekdays and 8am on weekends. Service is friendly and efficient and the kitchen uses fair trade, organic and locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. The room fills up quickly once the brunching hour begins, however, so taking advantage of the early hours is advised.