“Fuck, that’s amazing!” Jacob Wharton-Shukster laughs out loud at my exclamation upon my first mouthful of Chantecler’s polenta and calls over Chef Jonathan Poon and repeats what I’ve said. Poon smiles widely, but shyly, and doesn’t miss a beat as he continues to plate dishes at Chantecler’s pass on a busy Wednesday night, their third day in business.
These guys had a fight with the city to even open their doors – the former Mangez sandwich shop didn’t have an existing liquor license and by default, in an effort to keep out clubs and bars, local councillor Gord Perks tries to block any new liquor license in his Parkdale riding. Perks has the theoretical best interest of the neighbourhood at heart, but you can’t block progress, and new restaurants and businesses, if they are small and community-minded, actually help a place like Parkdale thrive.
Three days in and Chantecler (1320 Queen Street West) is obviously thriving. The 26-seat restaurant quickly fills, with Wharton-Shukster running front of house and mixing up some killer cocktails – Chantecler even has a twist for old cranks like me who aren’t into the cocktail craze – house-made tonic to go with my gin. I like this place already. And the husband is over the moon because they’re serving cask ale.
The biggest opening of this year’s film festival isn’t taking place on the movie screens. Instead, it’s all about where movie stars and movie goers will be dining. Torontonians have been watching the Bell Lightbox reach for the sky for the past couple of years, and when it was announced that Oliver & Bonacini would be running the onsite restaurants, both food lovers and movie fans were excited. What a great way to have dinner and a movie.
O&B Canteen, located at street level, opened in mid-August and is already receiving rave reviews. The 3,500 square foot space, designed by KPMB architects (who also designed the rest of the Bell Lightbox) seats 90 at banquettes and communal tables and another 70 on the streetside patio.
Officially opening today [Editor’s Note – Original info indicated that Luma would open today, but a representative from O&B has informed me that it doesn’t actually open until Sunday], Luma is a more upscale destination, seating 230 with room for another 50 on the terrace. The space is huge (8,000 square feet) and boasts marble walls, oak tables, leather chairs and a wall of windows that look down onto King Street West or up at the skyline and the CN Tower.