By Lori Bosworth
One of the indulgent pleasures of winter is slipping off for a mid-week lunch to catch up with a friend on a rare sunny and windless January afternoon in Toronto. Continuing my exploration of Riverside/Leslieville gastronomy, I suggested stopping at Bonjour Brioche Bakery and Café, a neighbourhood staple and darling of the weekend brunch crowd. Preferring to avoid the weekend line-ups, I’m surprised to observe that Bonjour Brioche is one table short of full on a Wednesday: a sure sign of culinary success.
Daily specials are posted on a black board. Having decided ahead of time that this was a “quiche day,” I’m somewhat disappointed to see that the second quiche-of-the-day, beginning with “Swi ” has been partially erased, leaving only Quiche Lorraine, not one of my favourites. Other daily specials included an omelette with roasted mushrooms and provolone; tourtière with cranberry chutney; fig, carmelized onion and blue cheese; and beef stew among several others. I opt for the Provençale Omelette ($10.50) on the regular menu with a mixed green salad on the side while my friend orders the Roast Beef Sandwich with Brie and garlic aioli ($6.75). I take a bite of my omelette and am adequately satisfied. Then I take another bite and “Bazinga,” I hit the motherload of the ingredients including green onion, tomatoes, black olives and gruyère and the omelette now completely makes sense. Black olives, while not usually my favourite, explode with flavour when paired with the milder vegetables and nutty-flavoured cheese.
My friend renders the roast beef sandwich “divine.” This version of the popular lunchtime favourite includes thinly-sliced moist roast beef and Brie on a homemade baguette with garlic aioli taking the place of horse radish. The dish is a definite star on the menu.
We were tantalized by a tray of homemade French delicacies including sour cherry, blueberry and mixed berry clafouti and lemon raspberry and blueberry custard, but my friend, who is of Portuguese descent, wanted to test the brioche to determine if it was superior to the Portuguese version. She deemed the delicate pastry lighter and fluffier than what her relatives used to make.
You can’t make a reservation at Bonjour Brioche and hopefully, you don’t mind sitting within breathing distance of your neighbour, but these logistics aside, Bonjour Brioche offers superb French country cuisine worth many a return visit.