By Amy Sanderson
Torontonicity was invited to check out the new patio concept, Nueva Vista Social Club, at the Ritz Carlton Hotel’s DEQ Patio.
I jumped out of my Über ride to be swept into the lobby of the posh Ritz-Carlton Hotel. As expected, the reception attendants were helpful and guided me to the DEQ patio just outside the doors of the main bar on the ground floor.
The DEQ patio is magically situated beside quiet Simcoe Park. It’s quiet and private, like a backyard patio at your friend’s place. The two Ritz Carlton Hotel publicists, Melanie and Kate, showed warm hospitality, introducing me to the other guests and promptly brought our table a tray of Expense Account Mojitos ($20). These are the best looking mojitos I’ve seen; they are like a little palm tree in a glass. Trevor Burnett, national brand ambassador for Bacardi and former bartender now mixologist, waxed on about the makings of this new drink. “I was recently at a bar where they served me a mojito with a tiny sprig of mint in it…what is that about?!” he joked.
The Expense Account is heavy on the mint, includes a stick of sugar cane, maple sugar dusting and crushed ice, which allows the delicious rum and mint to melt at a rate that you can truly appreciate the mixture of flavours. Perfect on a hot day, the huge waft of mint one inhales upon each sip gives this drink hit status.
The patio décor features pretty brown umbrellas, which accent the neutral tones of the furniture. Be careful if you are wearing stilettos on the weathered wooden deck: the slats are spaced a little far apart.
Once the Latin band starts playing, one imagines the backdrop of Jack Kerouac’s Rum Diaries: bronzed beautiful people wearing white fedoras and cigars, or pretty dresses, red lipstick and big sunnies. Every Thursday, the DEQ patio will feature a different live band from Ossington Street. Our table was comprised of two friends from the financial district and a fellow media aficionado. My financial friends remarked that they never considered straying this far from the usual Bay Street bars, but would consider this one given its fun atmosphere, proximity to a green space and prompt, courteous service.
All of the staff at DEQ were helpful and hospitable. The new Hotel Manager, Bastion Germer, made himself available to answer questions. Arjun Gopi, Assistant Director of Food and Beverage, ensured our table was never without food or drink to sample. So now for the best part: the food and drinks!
We started off with the delicious Empanaditas de Chorizo ($16), lightly battered slow-cooked chorizo stuffed Cuban puff pastry with sofrito aioli on the side for dipping. This was our favourite food of the evening by far.
Next we enjoyed the Sandwich Cubano ($18). This is a slow-roasted pork shoulder, ham, emmental cheese, yellow mustard and pickles on a soft loaf of bread cut into squares. The smokiness of the pork along with the pickles reminded me of a great resto I visited in South Beach Miami.
The last of the new menu was the Chicharittas ($9) which are fried smashed plantains with a lime-cilantro vinaigrette on the side. My guest wasn’t a huge fan, but I really liked these. They taste like dried bananas with the sauce carried a nice acidic zing to bring out the sweetness.
All this was enjoyed with a glass of Pepin Punch ($36) served in a brass punchbowl serves about six drinks, containing Bacardi rum, Grand Marnier, lime juice, grenadine with chunks of pineapple swimming on top all featured in Frank Bruno’s glasses. Who is Frank Bruno I asked? He is regarded as the consiglieri of the Bacardi family, since he has been working there for 36 years. For this opening, he wanted to be sure the punch was presented with panache.
Other drinks sampled include the El Presidente ($16) made with Bacardi gold, vermouth and bourbon cherry with black cherry garnish. Was reminiscent of a Campari, but boozier – delicious.
And to finish off, the Chan Chan ($17) contains Bacardi rum, lime juice and St. Germain served with a pretty edible flower. This was a crisp aperitif perfect to round off the decadent bites we had enjoyed.
We were also served some items not part of the new menu: tasty French fries drizzled with truffle oil, pulled pork sliders with homemade pickles, and not your average fish (lobster) and chips.
A fun night, and a truly Cuban experience perfect for hot hazy Toronto nights.
The full launch of the Nueva Vista Social Club theme starts Thursday, June 11, 2015. You can find DEQ at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel at 181 Wellington Street, Toronto, Tel. 416-585-2500.