1 of 5
Chef/GM Rachel Winters fires up a Breakfast Pizza at Hey!
2 of 5
3 of 5
Hey! owner/chef Rodney Bowers reinvents brunch.
4 of 5
Mandy McLeod gets ready to serve the ice water.
5 of 5
Hey! chef/GM Rachel Winters brings on the tourtière.
HEY! (89 Roncesvalles, at Pearson, 647-748-0439, heyrestaurant.tumblr.com) Complete brunches for $30 per person, including tax, tip and a kale Caesar. Average main $12. Open for weekend brunch 9 am to 3 pm, dinner 5 to 9 pm. Breakfast Monday to Friday 8 to 11:30 am, lunch 11:30 am to 3 pm, dinner from 5:30 pm. Cafe daily 7 am to 10 pm. Licensed. Access: short step at door, eight steps to dining room, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
Rodney Bowers likes a concept.
First there was Rosebud, with its Orson Welles obsession, at Queen and Bathurst in the former Mr. Pong's. The similarly themed Citizen (as in Kane) in Riverside, now TV chef Lynn Crawford's Ruby Watchco, followed. And who can forget Hey Meatball! on College, his homage to long-gone Little Italy?
His latest - Hey! as they answer the phone - on sleepy Roncesvalles has several concepts, including an in-house juice bar (Hey Juice!), a patisserie (Hey Sweets!) and an all-day café that stretches into dinner service. But brunch is where they all come together.
It begins with ex-Mistura pastry chef Leslie Cairns's impossibly flaky cheddar scones ($2) and not-too-sticky cinnamon buns ($3.50). What better to follow than a salutary Caesar ($10.25) made with gluten-free vodka and freshly juiced kale, celery and spinach brightened with lemon. Three of these and you'll not only be blitzed by noon, you'll cleanse your nether regions at the same time.
The lull between courses gives us a chance to take in the remarkable space. Some may remember this cavernous room as the Sir Nicholas Tavern, the Polish resto made famous when Pope John Paul II stopped by for a casual pierogi lunch in 1984. You'd never know it today, now all gleaming stainless-steel kitchen stations and an upper-level dining area with a view of it all.
Instead of the same ol' eggs Benedict or French toast, Bowers sends out fried free-range eggs on heaps of slow-braised navy beans thick with smoky Tamworth ham hock, grilled slices of crusty Boulart bread on the side. His breakfast pizza ($12.75) arrives dressed with spicy pork sausage, nutty Asiago cheese and the requisite runny-yolked egg, while the daily quiche ($13.50) finds a classic butter crust topped with deliciously whipped eggs, caramelized leek and sharp pecorino cheese.
The old-school crust on his tourtière - a massive meatloaf-like wedge of ground grass-fed beef laced with a traditional brunoise of diced carrot ‘n' onion ($12.75 both with organic greens in evo) - might be slightly burnt, but who cares about the wrapper when the filling's so ridiculously tasty?
Suitably stuffed, we stock up on more of Cairns's terrific baked goods - retro donuts ($3), miniature flourless chocolate Bundt cakes as dense as fudge, moist blueberry bread pudding (both $5) - before making an exit.
All this from a chef who's on record as saying he hates brunch. Why the sudden 180?
"I grew up and got a family," says Bowers. "I used to go to bed at 5 am. Nowadays, that's when I get up!"