HOLTS CAFÉ (50 Bloor, at Balmuto, 416-922-2333) Complete meals for $45 per person, including all taxes, tip and a lemonade. Average main $18. Open Monday to Wednesday 10 am to 7 pm, Thursday and Friday 10 am to 8 pm, Saturday 10 am to 6 pm, Sunday noon to 6 pm. Licensed. Access: barrier-free via elevator. Rating: NNN
Have you scheduled any TIFF downtime? Every now and then you've got to step off the festival express. And where better to recuperate, right next to all that Yorkville TIFF glamour, than at Holts Café?
On the third floor next to women's shoes, the café is an attractive, sleek, hard-surfaced, evenly lit room. With the big crowds of chat-happy lunchers, things can get noisy, especially sitting at the bar, which is where you may end up if you don't make a reservation.
The menu focuses on tartines, open-faced sandwiches built on the hefty slices of sourdough imported three times a week from the Poilâne bakery of Paris. It's a good gimmick if you're pursuing the 3,700-mile diet and good bread, too, but it's a little overshadowed by the three poached eggs, sautéed mushrooms and smoked salmon of the brunch tartine ($17). Accompanied by a side salad that has been pre-made too early, it is hardy but sophisticated. The dense, flavoursome bread holds up easily to the perfectly poached eggs. There's not a lot of salmon, but that prevents it from overwhelming the flavour balance.
Talking about prices at Holts seems kind of irrelevant. If you're here, you're ready to have a small bag's worth of fresh fried truffle potato chips with sea salt for $6. I catch a hint of truffle, and you've got to like the salt. You just try to forget about the price.
The jicama and fennel salad ($17) has its highs and lows. Highs include the fresh jicama and fennel and the bright citrus vinagrette. The lows include the charred corn, which is very uncharred and starchy, and the heirloom tomatoes. Where are the flavourful explosions of taste that a premium mid-August tomato should offer? Not here. All of this is chased down nicely by real lemonade ($4).
The impressive cube of bread pudding ($8), consisting in part of that famous bread, would strain the seams of a starlet's gown. Even though it hovers in a purgatory between warm and not warm, it's still delicious.
So when the beautiful people are starting to look not quite so beautiful and the bright lights are starting to burn, pull out the credit card and rise above it all at Holts Café.