The Drake Hotel
1150 Queen Street West
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $50
I have no idea why I’ve been obsessed with fried chicken lately, some cold weather comfort food craving, no doubt. But when perusing the online brunch menu for the Drake and discovering that Executive Chef Anthony Rose was serving up fried chicken and waffles, I knew I had to check it out.
A confession – despite living under 10 minutes away, I don’t get to the Drake that often. In part because the Gladstone is closer, and also because, after living in Parkdale for 15 years, I still can’t quite shake that “Drake! You ho!” attitude. Back in my day, part of the basement of the Drake had a dirt floor – and that’s how we liked it!
I know it’s unfair, particularly when it comes to the food. The kitchen staff didn’t destroy the neighbourhood, after all. And Rose is a great chef, he’s got a garden out back in the summer, and I suffer pangs of occasional guilt for not being more supportive. Especially when I read his menus.
The brunch card, served from 11am on Saturdays and Sundays in both the café and the main dining room, is a nice mix of classics from breakfast-y things that include the standard eggs, sausage and hash browns breakfast plate ($9.50) and granola with yogurt ($7.50); brunch-y things such as eggs benedict ($13), market vegetable quiche ($12) and soft and sexy scrambled eggs with wild mushrooms, triple cream brie and riopelle cheese ($13), and a few lunch selections that include a burger ($12) and a couple of salads.
We start off with really decent coffee ($1.76) and the scone plate ($7). Pastry Chef David Chow’s blueberry scones aren’t pegged the best in the city for nothing – these are hand-rolled squares of berry-studded pastry that are buttery layers of heaven topped with a dusting of sugar on top. Accompanied by butter, preserves and a vanilla cream, these alone could up the frequency of my visits to the Drake.
The husband’s chorizo and eggs ($12) come with homefries, avocado, a fiery salsa and warm tortilla strips. The eggs are gorgeous, two gently sunnyside up yellow orbs delicately arranged atop the chips, while the sausage is sweet and spicy.
My chicken and waffles ($14) is three boneless pieces of fried chicken atop an herbed waffle, accompanied by a baked apple with what appears to be a cream anglaise. The chicken is tender, the coating crisp, while the waffle is light and fluffy. It is quite perfect for me, with my odd penchant for combining sweet and savoury, although it might not work for everyone. Doused in warm maple syrup, it borders on being possibly too sweet, and some might find the herbed waffles along with the sweet roast apple and cream to be weird. Me, I’m all in, and am thinking I might need to find a spot in my personal Top 5 brunch items for this dish.
Previous experiences with service at the Drake have varied, mostly ending up on the cold and haughty side, but on this visit our server is friendly and cheerful, topping up our coffee and water regularly. The mood in the café is warm and almost festive despite the cold weather outside, and even being seated at an odd corner table at the back doesn’t matter with the sun streaming through the windows.
Okay, so maybe I’m warming to the Drake, after all these years. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for a nice piece of fried chicken. But I will admit that they turn out a fabulous brunch, and between the chicken and the scones, this could become a regular haunt.