Bonjour Brioche
812 Queen Street East
416-406-1250
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $25 (cash only)

People seem to either love or hate Bonjour Brioche. I regularly come across raves about their exquisite pastries and breads, but the service, and the line-up on weekends, can be a sticking point. In fact, in order to ensure we’d get a table to do this review, we actually visited on a Friday. Even then, by noon the place, including the patio, had filled up.

I suspect that a big part of Bonjour Brioche’s charm is that it’s so charming. Mixed furniture, pretty blue cotton tablecloths and tchotchkes mix well with display cases of tarts and cakes and baskets of bread, brioche and flaky croissants.

Expecting a delay, we start with coffee ($2) and pastries – both arrive almost immediately. An almond croissant ($1.60) looks plain on the plate but is flaky, sweet and quite possibly the best specimen I’ve ever had, while a lemon raspberry brioche ($1.75) is filled with tart lemon curd and fresh berries.

Choosing from the savoury menu here can be a challenge – there’s so many sandwiches, salads, tarts and quiches. The specials board alone offers 5 different tarts.

I opt for the tart with fresh fig, caramelized onion and blue cheese ($8.50). It comes accompanied by a hunk of baguette and a side salad. While flavourful, the square of tart is a bit wet in the centre, and the greens are really overdressed, leaving them limp and greasy. We rave over the bread, however.

Across the table the croque madam sandwich ($8.50) comes with the same overdressed greens and amazing baguette. The sandwich itself is fine but it doesn’t blow us away – the toasted brioche is the best part of the deal with the egg, ham and cheese just being there for contrast.

Later, we watch as the group of women at the table next to us are presented with their food. One of them has ordered the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs with chives atop rosti potato ($9.50), except I can see from where I’m seated that the rosti has been badly singed around the edges.

On a trip to the washroom in the basement, I can see the kitchen staff gathered around a table rolling buns to be baked, yet another point in the charm department.

Service during our visits is prompt and friendly, but as the place fills up, even without a line-up, we can see the staff starting to get flustered. On previous attempts to visit, the ones where I never got in the door because the line was so long, or the one time a couple of years ago when I was seated on the patio and left for 25 minutes without even a menu (and subsequently got up and walked out), I have seen service here be less than stellar (and that’s the polite version).

Ultimately, I think Bonjour Brioche tries to do too much – the menu is too large, they also do catering – and that brings the quality of both the food and the service down, especially when they get too busy. The breads and pastries, however get a big thumbs up, and I’d definitely come back for something sweet. But with so many other options popping up in the Riverdale area, I don’t know if I’d stand in line for brunch here.