Chef Léonie Lilla gets creative at the laid-back Farmer's Daughter
FARMER’S DAUGHTER (1588 Dupont, at Franklin, 416-546-0626, @ DupontDaughter) Complete brunches for $35 per person, including tax, tip and a Black Caesar. Average main $13. Open for weekend brunch from 10:30 am, dinner Thursday to Sunday from 5:30 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN
As the editor of NOW’s brunch guide, I run into my fair share of eggs. From Bennys, frittatas and quiches to scrambled, over easy and sunny side up, I’ve done them all. But none prepared me for the magnificence that is the dish listed on the Farmer’s Daughter’s inaugural brunch carte simply as Ouef Mollet.
Picture this: slathered in a nutty arugula-and-spinach pesto, a soft-boiled egg of the free-range variety reclines on a bed of grilled house-baked brioche. Rashers of crumbly lamb bacon and stalks of spring asparagus criss-cross the plate, the lot finished with a toss of baby red radish sprouts and a butterless hollandaise that borders on foam. I don’t know what to do first – slowly inhale or upload a snapshot to my Instagram account.
Welcome to the laid-back spinoff of Darcy McDonell’s wildly popular Farmhouse Tavern, where Frog Waffles turn out to be southern-fried frog legs over toasted buckwheat waffles drizzled with a delirious reduction of butter, red wine and maple syrup (both $12).
“I like the irony of pairing something that’s good for you with something that isn’t,” says Swiss-born chef Léonie Lilla. She’s worked her way up through the ranks of Auberge du Pommier, Rodneys by Bay and Momofuku Daisho since arriving in Canada seven years ago.
At dinner, her quirky sense of humour shows up in the Cheek ‘n’ Cheek, i.e., ravioli of braised veal cheeks tossed with pickled halibut cheeks ($22), and the substantial surf ‘n’ turf-inspired burger topped with a fish ‘n’ chips-style fillet of battered haddock as well as pickled red slaw and tartar sauce ($18/$17 brunch). You’ll arm-wrestle over the latter’s fries and house-made ketchup.
Chef’s exceptional Croque Madame comes tiered with prosciutto and aged cheddar, on the side a veritable mountain of crisp home fries and a lollo rosso salad in preserved lemon vinaigrette ($14). Wash it down with a Black Caesar ($10) laced with squid ink and float home on a cloud.
Now that I’ve eaten the entire brunch card – except for the yogurt salad ($11), and who orders that? – I’m still hungry to see what else the remarkably talented Lilla can do. What are these $5 desserts advertised on the dinner lineup?
“There are lemon Twinkies stuffed with rhubarb and marshmallow jelly, and wild ginger-chocolate ice cream sandwiches,” gushes our enthusiastic server. “But we sold them all last night.”
“I’m very adamant that they sell out,” says Lilla a week later. “It guarantees that everything’s fresh every day.”
Maybe so, but I still have my heart set on that Twinkie.
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