NEWS January 30th, 2014

By Liz Campbell

Left bank is all right

From smart waiter to an informed chef, we say ‘Thumbs up’

In a world where waiters typically upsell the menu, you have to love a waiter who suggests you’ve ordered too much.

We’re at Left Bank Bistro for brunch and my two guests and I have very different views on what this meal encompasses. My own choice is french toast with bacon and maple syrup — perfectly reasonable brunch fare in my view. My first guest selects mussels and frites, but who am I to argue? The second orders spinach and mushroom crepes, and asks for a side of frites.

Here’s where the waiter does his stuff.

He tactfully suggests that the portion of fries with the mussels comes in a large bowl and is generous enough to share, thus saving $7. Thoughtful.

While we wait for lunch, crusty slices of baguette are served with a white bean tapenade. It’s a little too garlicky for me but my guests tuck in with gusto.

It’s half gone by the time lunch comes, but I suspect it’s the baguette from Fred’s Bread that’s a big part of the appeal.

My french toast is made with Fred’s Bread brioche, lightly scented with cinnamon and served with slices of fresh strawberries, double-smoked bacon and Quebec maple syrup ($12).

Surprisingly, finishing four fat slices and all the bacon proves no problem at all.

The brioche is light as a feather and real maple syrup is a lovely bonus.

The mussels come in a rich wine broth composed of tomato, leek, onion, wine and herbs ($12). It’s a step beyond the traditional
marinière and my guest uses the last of the baguette to sop it up.

“It’s great to get a broth that doesn’t overwhelm the flavour of the mussels themselves,” he comments.

True to his word, the waiter produces a huge bowl of frites, so we all sample some. These are frites as they should be: double fried so they are crisp on the outside, and lightly salted.

Instead of the usual mayonnaise, they come with an aoli. We all ignore this. They’re perfect on their own. The crepes are nicely
overstuffed with mushrooms and fresh spinach in a cheese sauce, and accompanied by a side salad of fresh greens ($8). The sauce adds a nice cheesy touch to mushrooms that have just been lightly sautéed.

Crepes can be heavy, but these are delicate and serve as an unobtrusive wrap for the goodies inside.

To perfectly round off the meal, we are served cups of good, strong coffee and real cream in a jug.

There are no fiddly containers to open. Left Bank’s ambience is warm and the staff is friendly and accommodating.

The chef tries to focus on local ingredients and makes sustainable choices, all of which put him up a notch in my esteem. The regular menu includes steak with more of those gorgeous frites, duck confit, and a saffron fish stew (not called bouillabaisse on the menu).

I’m planning to return to try this last. I’ll let you know how it works out, but in the meantime this spot definitely gets a thumbs up for brunch.

Left Bank Bistro, 2015 Avenue Rd., 647-349-5700; leftbankbistro.ca. (Note that the prices on the website are not all up to date).