ROSEBUD (669 Queen West, at Bathurst, 416-703-8810) Complete meals for $25 per person, including all taxes, tip and a Gatorade. Average main $14. Open Sunday noon to 8 pm. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, narrow room, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
The Rosebud's Rod Bowers doesn't do brunch. That's why the outspoken East Coast chef describes his recently launched all-day Sunday card as "lupper," a lazy afternoon meal that stretches from lunch till supper.
"Years ago before I went into fine dining, I started the brunch at Insomnia on Bloor," Bowers recalls. "And I've come to really hate brunch. Who wants people who listen to Arthur Black on the CBC, have their own espresso makers and read the New York Times before they line up at the door at 9:30 to bitch about steamed spinach on the side? I'd rather sleep."
Knowing his schedule, we've reserved a table under a fake name - Kato Fakename, to be specific - for noon, but Bowers suggests we show up 30 minutes later, as he's not a morning person.
We arrive at the appointed hour, but it seems Bowers isn't much of an afternoon person either, as the usually packed supper club is empty and appears closed. But a push on the door proves otherwise, and soon we're commandeering a linen-clad table in the bistro's bright front window.
"We're running a bit behind," explains our affable server, who soon returns with glasses of supermarket cranberry juice ($2) after informing us they're out of 2-litre bottles of Gatorade ($8). And don't make the mistake like we did of asking for a smoothie. Bowers hates them, too.
"Go to Juice for Life if you want smoothies," barks Bowers. "You come to Rosebud for real croissants, extra butter and too much bacon."
While a few dishes on Bowers's Sunday card could qualify as brunch elsewhere - vanilla French toast with banana, berries and cream ($11), hot organic oatmeal ($8) - most of it consists of downsized mains from Rosebud's dinner roster. Even steamed mussels in saffron-kissed cream ($12) become breakfast when sided with free-range scrambled eggs ($6).
Instead, we start with a shareable salad of hazelnut-crusted Quebecois chèvre supine on a leafy bed of sweet roasted heirloom beets and arugula, generously dressed with quality balsamic and first-press olive oil ($12).
We follow with a heaping helping of house-made ravioli stuffed with venison, offset by a teasingly tart sauce of dried cherry and sage ($14), while a halved and deboned, crisply roasted Cornish hen ($15) comes sauced with syrupy pomegranate and sided with organic mesclun in a creamy pepper vinaigrette.
Space restricts us from revealing the reasons why Bowers named one dish Steve the Dentist and Pete the Cop salad ($12), but we can't let him go without hearing the story behind his Die Ben Die burger ($14).
"I'm kind of in love with one of my regulars' wives," Bowers bellows down the blower just days before leaving for a working holiday eating his way across Europe. "She's funny and beautiful and smart and says she'll hook up with me if her husband, Ben, dies. So whenever Ben comes in, I cook everything he orders with tons of butter in hopes he'll have a coronary."
Though we doubt it could cause a heart attack, Ben's killer burger features a hefty Kobe beef patty bursting with jus - and butter, no doubt - plated with rosemary-freckled home fries, house greens and ramekins of mayo and Dijon.
La même moutarde gets spread on the thick slices of My Market challah that sandwich Rosebud's Croque Madame topped with a runny fried egg ($12).
But charging a buck extra for two pieces of toast to accompany an omelette of wild mushrooms, rocket and Morbier ($12), even if it is Ace's excellent eight-grain, is pushing it.
The chef may disdain the dish, but his spin on eggs Benedict - dubbed the Rose Benny ($14) - is one of the better renditions of the brunch classic around. Over incredibly flaky croissants that Bowers finishes in-house and a layer with grilled peameal bacon, two gently poached eggs come ladled with ridiculously rich butter hollandaise and tossed with a chiffonade of chives.
Not surprisingly, it's one of Ben's favourites.