New Menu: The Gladstone Hotel

As the oldest continually operating hotel in Toronto, the Gladstone has been posting up on the corner of Queen and Gladstone ever since 1889. Still, even a Toronto institution needs to change things up every once in a while to stay fresh.

So, this July, the Queen West landmark unveiled a brand-new menu for their cafe from Chef de Cuisine Katie Venables Lloyd. We recently visited the Gladstone to sample their refreshed dinner menu, highlighted by five new burgers, hand-cut fries and homemade buns.

 

We kicked things off with a pair of drinks from the “Summer Sips” offerings, a rotating collection of classic cocktails inspired by whatever ingredients are currently on-hand. Our picks? The Rebel Yell (a welcome variation on a whiskey sour) and a Hard Pink Lemonade, both refreshing options for a breezy summer evening, and the perfect pairing for a round of appetizers and people-watching both in and outside the heritage hotel.

 

Knowing full well we’d be sampling more than a medically advisable amount of food, we’d make a pact not to clean our plates going in. And that pact lasted all of two minutes once the first round came: a mix of tasty, up scale bar snacks. The Beet Chips deserve most of the credit (or I guess, blame) – dusted with lemon rosemary salt, they’re just sweet and salty enough to be borderline irresistible. Equally tasty were the Banh Mi Tacos – technically more of a wrap – but whatever you call it, it’s a must-try. It’s hard to go wrong with pork belly, and ours was perfectly tender and flavourful, with the sriracha mayo adding a welcome kick.

 

 

From there, we tried (read: polished off) the Monforte Cheese, an example of the new menu’s trend towards locally sourced ingredients. Both the cheese – like a creamy Brie with more of an edge – and the honey drizzled atop it hail from nearby Stratford, and the platter can be ordered either as an appetizer or dessert.

 

The Confit Duck Wings came next, the same combo of crispy skin and tender, meaty Peking duck you’d get at a Chinese restaurant, only with the added benefit of being able to gnaw it right off the bone. Uh, yeah, so much for moderation.

 

After that, it was time for the main event: the Gladstone’s new burgers. We opted for one of their signatures, the Tower Suite Burger. Presumably a nod to the condos going up all around the Hotel (and, you know, the rest of the city), the burger was appropriately piled high with that same creamy Monforte cheese, bacon, grilled red onions and horseradish mayo. And while I tend to find that bacon can get lost on a burger, it didn’t here, without going too far in the other direction and overwhelming the patty.

 

The new menu also isn’t without a few vegetarian options (which probably would’ve been sacrilege back in the 1890s, but is a downright necessity in 2015), like The Cauliflower Burger. Headlined by chickpea-battered cauliflower that has all the tasty goodness of a fritter and none of the grease, it comes topped with cheddar, green cabbage and parsley slaw, red pepper harissa and aioli, and more than enough flavour to win over a few meat-loving converts. And whichever you choose, all the new burgers are also available in a lettuce wrap to make for a gluten-friendly option. But chances are, you’re going to want to try the buttery, flaky buns, which are now made in-house.

And just in case that wasn’t enough, we finished the night off with one of the Gladstone’s new Ice Cream Sandwiches, featuring homemade cookies and ice cream courtesy of fellow Toronto institution Ed’s Real Scoop. (The selection rotates, but when we visited, it was strawberry rhubarb ice cream and shortbread, a perfect summer combo.)

Much like the Gladstone Hotel itself, the hamburger’s been around since the 1890s, well over 125 years. And not that either were especially in need of an update, but even an icon can’t just rest on its laurels.