My first experiences with the Drake Hotel in Toronto consisted of waiting in line to pay cover, or waiting in line to get onto the rooftop patio and then paying $15 for a drink. One time we weasled our way onto the patio for a romantic, delicious dinner an hour and a half after we had arrived; another time I brushed elbows with Adrian Grenier of the hit show Entourage as he prepared for his band to play downstairs. I agree that this is a great spot to spend a summer evening, but it doesn’t always seem worth all of the fuss.
Then I was introduced to the Drake weekend brunch by a good friend, and haven’t turned back since. You have a few options as to where you want to dine: there is the Drake Café, located on the west side of the hotel, which has a casual, simple patio; the spacious and uniquely decorated bar area; or the darker atmosphere of the restaurant itself. All dining occurs on the main floor for breakfast, but dinner includes service on the rooftop patio or “Sky Yard”, on fashionable benches covered with pillows, giving it a Mata Hari harem sort of feel, but with lighter overtones.
The nice thing about breakfast is that it is a casual meal, and you usually don’t have to wait in line to get in. We did wait on one occasion, but they brought us melt-in-your-mouth mini croissants with jam, and all was quickly copacetic. They offer healthy options, such as granola and fresh fruit, but if you’re like me, when you go out for brunch on the weekends you want something hearty. I personally enjoy ordering eggs Benedict the morning after an evening of red wine, but they can be a risky choice. Some places will overcook your poached eggs, so that you miss out on that mingling of egg yolk, hollandaise, and ketchup. This is no good. But at the Drake, they always poach their eggs perfectly. And I will make this bold statement, but only because it’s true: the Drake Eggs Caleb is my favourite breakfast in Toronto. It comes with scrumptious smoked salmon, and hand cut French fries that marry exquisitely with the hollandaise sauce. The restaurant also offers unique choices like Southern Fried Chicken and Waffles, which comes with sweet Niagara cherry jam; this may sound like an odd combination, but it works. Especially for hangovers.
One of the most appealing things about the hotel space is the eccentric décor. It is artistic, trend setting, and has a gallery feel to it, which makes the experience one-of-a-kind. In the restaurant area, the walls are covered in life size pictures of a forest, illuminated in a way that reminds me of the Science Center in the 1980s. It works in modern decor because of our environmental consciousness and return to grass roots, especially in Toronto where the eco-friendly population is massive. There has also been a move towards nature in the decorating world, where we are seeing more and more natural wood, deer antlers, and other elements you’d expect to see at a cottage or a ranch. Some of the decorating choices are really out there; I’m referring to the very realistic reproduction of the upper torso of a man, and his partially bald crown, replete with real hair on both his head and his back. It hits you as you come down the stairs from the patio and/or washrooms, and it is hard to avoid. I’m not completely sold on that piece, but overall, I’d like to get the name of their interior designer. The one recommendation I have for the Drake is to sort out the washrooms upstairs, because the smell was off-putting, and took away from the positive experience of the hotel.
If you don’t get a chance to try the fabulous blueberry scones during your meal, be sure to take some to go. They are a delectable way to reward yourself for being so forward thinking, and going to the Drake for breakfast.
The Drake Hotel is located at 1150 Queen St. W., Toronto. For more information, visit the Drake Hotel website at http://www.thedrakehotel.ca/dining/menu