MILDRED'S TEMPLE KITCHEN (85 Hanna, at Liberty, 416-?588-?5695) Complete brunches for $35 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $13. Open for brunch Sunday 10 am to 3 pm, for lunch Monday to Saturday 11:45 am to 4 pm, dinner nightly from 5 pm. Closed some holidays. No reservations at brunch. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN
Like Frank chef Anne Yarymowich, we've been looking forward to checking out the reincarnation of Donna Dooher and Kevin Gallagher's Mildred Pierce for months. Now rebranded Mildred's Temple Kitchen - "Mildred Pierce was a special place in a special time, and we'd never be able to replicate it," says Dooher of the name change - the Liberty Village location finally launched quietly two weeks ago.
The new resto's just as difficult to find as when it was in a warehouse on Sudbury. Hint: it's down the walkway by the underground parking garage next to the LCBO across from the Academy of Spherical Arts. You'll probably still get lost.
I've already cased the joint so I know where we're going when I gather the posse to scrutinize Mildred's inaugural brunch. Like the old, the new Kitchen serves lunch and dinner. But it's her no-reservations brunch that inspires feeding frenzies every Sunday.
I was never a fan of Pierce's brunch, not seeing the point of lining up for two hours for eggs dished up in a hokey Arabian Nights-themed room that looked like a joust was about to get underway. Nor do I enjoy crowds. Expecting to see tour buses parked out front and a ravenous queue at the door, we confront a virtually empty Kitchen instead.
After being ushered through a sleek bar area - henceforth known as the "holding pen" - decked out cheekily with Gehry-esque corrugated cardboard ottomans, we enter the Temple's spectacular split-level room. Brian Brownlie of du Toit Architects designed the soaring, sunlit space, all polished concrete floors, dark mahogany accents and white Saarinen armchairs. Think Paris airport departure lounge.
Though the look has changed considerably, the brunch card remains intact. "Written in stone," says Dooher. It starts, as before, with flaky black-currant scones and old-school buttermilk biscuits (both $4 for two) served with whipped butter and peppery plum compote.
Today's quiche - goat cheese, tomato and parsley ($12 with salad) - is tasty enough though slightly under-heated, while a side of fennel-flecked sausage ($4) is somewhat dry.
Things improve considerably with old favourite Huevos Monty, a baked tortilla sandwich stuffed with refried black beans and cheddar topped with a pair of runny sunny-side-up eggs, mild house-made salsa, creamy guacamole and crème fraîche. Dooher's spin on eggs Benedict - aka Veda's Choice (both $13) - comes on a Clafouti croissant layered with perfectly poached eggs, smoked salmon and a dribble of Béarnaise.
A few days after our visit, I ask Dooher if she ever looks back on her pioneer days. Before Mildred Pierce, women rarely rose above peeling carrots.
"If you were competent and could do the job, you got a shot at it. And because we were headed up by a team of incredible women, women wanted to work with us.
"I'm so proud of Anne," she says of her former colleague. "To have two women opening restaurants in a male-dominated industry, and doing so well, is really quite an achievement."