25 Liberty Street
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $35
We joke here at TasteTO about the “Restaurant Makeover Death Watch”; the jinx that seems to occur to so many places that participate in this particular Food Network TV show. But the truth is that many restaurants that participate actually go on to do well; not necessarily because of the publicity or even the new décor or menu, but because the process is a rejuvenation of sorts.
Such is the case with The Liberty, the longstanding café in Liberty Village. Already a successful neighbourhood lunch and dinner spot, a revamp of their menu on the show was quickly discarded after the film crews left, and even the renovated décor was tweaked to suit their needs better than the designer was able to.
The high-ceilinged space doesn’t need anything fancy. With huge high windows facing north and east, the room fills with a splendid light during the day that makes it the perfect spot to sit with a coffee and a newspaper. The patio on two sides also makes the restaurant feel like something straight out of a French village, and the service offers an old world charm and elegance that makes customers feel right at home.
The menu is an average-size list of brunch classics, from French toast with bananas and orange marmalade ($10), various versions of eggs benedict ($9.50 – $12), eggs and bagels, and a selection of the pizzas the place is famous for ($10.50 – $14).
I opt for the big breakfast ($12) – a heaping portion of soft savoury homefries, three eggs (over easy in this case) smoky bacon and a pork and apple sausage, accompanied by toasted dark rye bread. The eggs impress, with no extra grease and no burnt edges. The sausage isn’t especially redolent of apple, but it’s tasty and the bacon is smashing.
Across the table, the husband selects the butternut squash and brie omelette ($9.50). I hate using the word “perfect” when writing a review, but the eggs seriously cannot get any better than this – light, fluffy, and sunshine-yellow, this is what omelettes everywhere aspire to be. The filling of roasted squash and brie has a sweet earthiness but needs something – a touch of herb or spice, perhaps – to give it a bit of kick. It’s good, but slightly bland.
And while that quote from The Simpsons about brunch being “not quite breakfast and not quite lunch but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe” rings with cliché, the wedge of cantaloupe leaves us satisfied beyond belief, it being one of the last local muskmelons of the summer, probably purchased only an hour earlier from the farmers market in the parking lot across the street. We’re so inspired by the cantaloupe, in fact, that we head over to the market to buy one. How very civilized. How very French village.
Whatever we might think of reality reno shows, the makings of a great restaurant really revolve around good food, a nice atmosphere and an involvement with the community. On a sunny Sunday morning at least, Liberty’s got all of that – in spades.