Holt Renfrew is known for its great high-end shopping. If you want to grab the latest shades from Gucci, the hottest Prada clutch, or the most notable designer jeans, there's no better place to go. But tucked away on the second floor behind all the Manolos and Jimmy Choos, and overlooking Bloor Street, is the chic and modern Holts Café, a warm and inviting place to enjoy a leisurely lunch before engaging in more 'retail therapy'. While enjoying the ambiance of their beautifully designed long loungey room, filled with art and light, you can enjoy the small but exquisite menu by Holt's new chef de cuisine Matt Hickey. One of my favourites is the Brunch Tartine with its layers of sautéed mushrooms, perfectly poached eggs, oven-roasted tomatoes and Kristapsons’ smoked salmon, nestled on top of the famed Poilâne bread, flown in from Paris three times a week, dense with a butter-kissed crust that has a hearty, smoky flavour. Crowned with a tumble of delicate mâche and served with a little tray of spices — Himalayan sea salt, Italian herbs and cracked pepper — this tartine is worth a walk up Bay Street.
The entrance to Holt's Café on the top floor of the Bloor Street location
The interior atrium of the café was decked out with Christmas cheer...
...with even a reindeer or two, festooned with bling
The stunning 50'-long abstract landscape called Far Shore, by Toronto artist Michael Adamson
Holt's Café lunch menu
Fresh Squeezed Lemonade
Sliced lemons and limes for the Lemonade and Sparkling Water
Parsnip and Garlic Soup with Walnuts, Gorgonzola and rosemary oil
Burrata Cheese with aged balsamic, arugula pesto and vine-ripe cherry tomatoes
served with grilled crusty bread
Sweet Potato Fries with chipotle aïoli and house made ketchup
Coffee & Ancho Braised Beef Short Ribs with charred corn risotto and crispy leeks
'Brunch Tartine' with poached eggs, smoked salmon, mushrooms and oven roasted tomatoes
Seared Sea Bass with fregola — an Isreali couscous from Sardinia — butternut squash and pine nuts
Holt's Grilled Cheese
Recipe courtesy Chef Lucas Castle of Holt's Café, Toronto
1 piece of olive focaccia bread, 5" x 5" x 2"
1 tsp roasted garlic purée
2 thin slices, 1 oz each of Canadian smoked mozzarella
4 slices yellow tomato, 1 1/2" diameter
3 large whole basil leaves
2 oz shaved Parma prosciutto
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Slice focaccia bread in half and spread pureed roasted garlic onto both sides. Place one slice mozzarella onto bottom side of focaccia bread. Layer tomato slices, basil leaves and prosciutto onto cheese. Lightly season filling with cracked black pepper and top with last slice of mozzarella. Place top of bread onto sandwich. Preheat a panini grill to medium-high heat. Place filled sandwich onto preheated grill, top it with olive oil and grill until crispy and cheese begins to melt, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from grill and serve immediately.