What does a rustic retreat in the city look like? I’m not talking about a cozy country home – but the rustic restaurant retreat in Toronto with a big name chef attached to it. We may have found such a place. Chef Mani Binelli (who you and your fanciest friends may recognize from the likes of Centro, Canoe and Auberge du Pommier) invites us to try out The Guild – a twist on contemporary Canadian food where everything is local and made in-house. A perfect weeknight spot? I think so.
Even the décor follows the “local is best” mantra. This very open space achieves a feeling of coziness. The massive open kitchen gives me the feeling that this restaurant has nothing to hide. And it’s kind of fun to watch the frenzied preparation back there – although the very visible dishwasher catches me off guard for a second. My favourite décor element? The tin roof. You can’t help but notice it, and it was hand-pressed by a Guelph artisan. I’m impressed.
Handmade cocktails – I’m in! So what exactly is “Mother’s Tough Love” in a glass? A drink with a name like this deserves a try. House made ginger beer and a good slug of Gosling’s Black Seal rum. Very tasty. Very tiny glass. Maybe mother’s tough love refers to how I’ll feel after a couple of these? I stick to the wine, although the rest of the drink menu is intriguing enough that I’d like to come back when I can sleep in the next day…
The six course tasting menu starts with Duck Confit with a lovely bourbon black pepper jam. A tangy endive slaw rounds out the dish – a happy marriage of sweet, salty and a bit of crunch. Nicely balanced.
Next is seared pork belly and tequila peach compote. A little bit of the summer was captured in this peach compote. Chef Binelli continues to find balance in his dishes with a bit of kimchi in every bite.
Who doesn’t love a bit of pasta before the main course? My Italian grandmother would approve, of course. Of all the dishes, the Curvy Rigatoni falls a bit flat. The in-house smoked chicken packs a vibrant burst of flavour. But if you happen on a bite of rigatoni sans-chicken…well, the roasted garlic tomato cream sauce just doesn’t quite cut it. Shredding the chicken right into the sauce could help to make sure the lovely chicken makes it into every spoonful.
The main event: Wellington County skirt steak. A hearty root vegetable mash (purple potatoes in any dish always brings out my inner child) gives this dish even more substance. The steak is topped with a pico de gallo salsa, which is a fresh take on a more traditional wine reduction. This dish really livened up my taste buds at the end of this flavourful meal.
This tasting leaves me curious and craving the rest of the menu. Reservations are welcome, even if you have kids. And yes, The Guild will even give you an elusive weekend brunch rezo. The combination of attention to detail and willingness to accommodate the customer is pretty refreshing. Bring your pickiest friend or visiting relatives here — The Guild can take it. If you’re on a date, ask for a quiet corner in the restaurant. Nicely done, Chef Binelli, a rustic retreat indeed.
The Guild Restaurant
1442 Dundas St West
Dinner: Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday 5-10pm
Dinner: Friday/Saturday 5-11pm
Brunch: Saturday/Sunday 10:00am to 3pm
The writer was a guest at Café Bar Pasta. The restaurant did not review or approve this article.