Moroco is a mix of chocolate retail shop and chi-chi Parisian lounge.
MOROCO (99 Yorkville, at Bellair, 416-961-2202) Complete afternoon tea for $75 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of champagne. Average main $20 dinner/$15 lunch or brunch. Open Tuesday and Wednesday 11 am to 10 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11 am to close. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 3 pm. Afternoon tea Tuesday to Sunday 2:30 to 5 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Licensed. Access: six steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
Kelly Kimel has a vision, and it involves a lot of chocolate. Four months ago, the camera-shy restaurateur launched Moroco, Toronto's first all-chocolate boîte, and the champagne and veritable rivers of Valrhona have been flowing ever since.
Her motto? "Let them eat cacao." Beats eating caca, I suppose.
Located in the same mall as the historic Coffee Mill, Moroco is both an upscale chocolate retail shop and a swanky Parisian-style lounge equipped with a curvy black velvet banquettes, crystal chandeliers and mirrored fireplace decked out in jewelled skulls. Très chic, non?
And while the kitchen does feature a lineup of more conventional Gallic mains - Croque Monsieur ($15), Coq au Vin ($22) - it's ex-Senses pastry chef and chocolatier Iris Roteliuk's over-the-top dessert confections that truly put Moroco a cut above the average Hogtown bistro. Where else will you find a $16 chocolate mousse "hamburger" dressed with lemon jelly "mustard" on a vanilla poppy-seed bun served with "fries" fashioned from cookies splashed with raspberry coulis "ketchup"?
With l'amour in mind, I enlist the most romantic person I know - singer Micah Barnes - to check out Moroco's opulent afternoon tea ($45 per person with 24 hours notice). Micah and his jazzy trio perform an evening of torch songs at the Cameron on Valentine's Day. You'll need a box of Kleenex to get through his heartbreaking ballad I Will Follow.
But we're all laughs today as we catch up over complimentary flutes of Veuve Clicquot (Ponsardin Brut, $27/glass à la carte). Somebody must think we're a couple: in honour of the ladies who lunch who regularly pack the joint, I'm sporting a twin-set with pearls. Barnes looks butch in Eddie Bauer.
Our la-de-da tea ceremony begins with small china cups of moulten dark chocolate topped with whipping cream, a truffle from Moroco's "caramel collection" on the side. Our extremely personable server returns with a three-tiered silver tray of savouries and sweets. The lowest level holds a dainty array of finger sandwiches - cool cucumber and watercress, smoked salmon with cream cheese, egg salad with curried 'n' caramelized onion - while the middle contains a selection of chocolate and cherry scones and ramekins of both Devonshire cream and lemon curd.
The uppermost comes loaded with chewy chocolate macarons, mini-éclairs stuffed with candied strawberry and apricot gelée, buttery shortbread cookies iced with lime cordial, and a pair of ethereal raspberry parfaits. We wash them all down with a decaffeinated pot of prickly pear tea scented with rose blossoms. I don't even smoke, but I feel like I need a cigarette.
The morning after, the Barnes boy and I are back for brunch. Over pricey Americanos ($5), we make waste of Roteliuk's pastry basket - brittle pain au chocolat, citrusy miniature muffins, eggy rum-laced canales, flaky Rahier croissant - before digging into beautifully plated but decidedly ordinary scrambled eggs coupled with bland pre-cut Italian sausage and very good grease-free latkes dolloped with sour cream.
Portobello Grande (both $15) - a 3-inch mushroom cap piled with roasted tomato, a poached egg and a soupçon of tarragon béchamel with some anonymous salad on the side - also fails to deliver, something particularly perturbing after the orgasmic heights of afternoon tea. When I later ask Moroco's operating manager, Craig Hudson, who's responsible for brunch, he replies, "I'm hiring someone this morning."
Moroco is one of the most jaw-droppingly gorgeous rooms in town, a ridiculously luxe destination sure to impress any potential paramour. Would Barnes return, despite missteps at brunch?
"Oh, definitely," quips the confirmed bachelor. "The next time I take my mother to the Coffee Mill, we're coming here for dessert!"