Saturday, November 19, 2011

Review: Vegan brunch at the Windsor Arms

I was unknowingly quite quick off the mark when Toronto's Windsor Arms started its new vegan brunch. In fact, we turned up on the first official launch day of the new menu, even though I'd already read a blog about it and been sufficiently stoked to make Putin come with me. It turns out that the reviewer had only been there the previous week for the soft opening, and upon finding this I was even more excited about being there.

The Windsor Arms is a very classy joint (being located in Yorkville and all) and one that I felt quite underdressed in with my scuffed purple canvas shoes, dirty hair and bearded boymanfriend*. However, this isn't like the Hilton Prague (yep, I still remember you, mate) and the second we walked in there we were treated warmly and got on instantly with the extremely professional servers, greeters and staff.

After being shown to our gorgeous booth by the lovely Andrei and handed the menu we both almost melted with joy at the range of stuffs therein. The best thing was that it didn't feel like a vegan brunch menu; it felt like a brunch menu.

Putin had decided before we got there that he was having the Veg Benedict (seared smoky tofu cutlet, sauteed garlic greens, cornmeal crusted fried tomato, sprouted grain English muffins, hollandaise sauce), but I couldn't turn down The Works, as it sounded perfect; scrambled tofu with greens and seared mushrooms, home fries, tempeh bacon, black bean chili, sprouted grain toast and home made sunflower miso butter. I of course had a black coffee too.

Our orders were taken quickly and the food came after that nice period of time which is just enough time to chat and get excited without getting too hungry. This isn't a fast food place, and I enjoy the feeling that my food is actually being made rather than reheated.

When my monster meal arrived Putin was a little worried about the size of his food - he's twice my size so when my plate's fuller than his it seems a bit wrong - but after a few bites he realised his meal was so nutritionally dense that it wasn't going to be a problem. Though I'm not a huge fan of tempeh bacon it was nice to have something was a little zing on the plate, although my favourite by far was the black bean chili. I enjoyed the fact that the tofu scramble wasn't the main focus of the dish and the home fries were cooked to perfection. The sunflower miso butter, too, deserves a mention of its own; tasting somewhere between mild hummus and soy butter, it added another dimension of flavours to the meal. This, I think, is what makes chef Doug's creations so great; they capitalise on every opportunity to bring something extra to the plate without overwhelming all the other flavours.

Putin's Veg Benedict was phenomenal; the tofu steaks were thick enough to feel like a meat substitute without shying away from the fact that they weren't (if that makes sense) and the hollandaise sauce tasted exactly like the real thing. When Doug came to chat I asked him how he made it and from the list of ingredients I can only remember coconut oil, lemon and nutritional yeast, but regardless of how the trick is performed, that man is a wizard. Putin was particularly impressed with the English muffins and the tomatoes, and the whole dish felt like a great mid-point between haute cuisine and a hearty meal.

We were both totally stuffed (though we almost licked the plates clean) and opted, from their menu of over 40 teas, for a pot of Darjeeling to let our stomachs relax, and even that was way beyond any expectations. We sat, feeling totally unrushed, when the vegan chef Doug made his friendly rounds to enquire how we enjoyed it. This, again, felt very natural and I got the impression that he was actually taking on board what we said. He also deserves kudos for having tattoos of vegetables and a big VEGAN stamp on his forearm. You are an inspiration in more ways than one, my friend!

I could honestly not say a bad word about my whole experience at the Windsor. From the friendly but amazingly professional staff, to the quality and quantity of the food, everything was of exceptional quality - and the whole meal, including coffee and tip and a decent tip, cost us $25 each. The crew have really raised the bar for great brunch food in Toronto as well as being pioneering in their choice to offer high-class vegan options too.

Now they just need to get that vegan high tea going and I'll be there every weekend. (Please, Windsor Arms, do!)

The Windsor Arms is located at 18 St. Thomas Street and is open 7.30am-11.00pm weekdays. Brunch is available on Sundays, from 10.30am-2.30pm.

*We have both decided that if we ever get rich we're going to dress even more scruffy just to annoy people.

No comments:

Post a Comment