Food Editor’s Guide: Dining Al Fresco At Dinner With A View
Food editor Eshun Mott shares her experience dining under the stars.
If you live in Toronto you may have heard about The Bentway — a new multipurpose public space under the Gardiner Expressway. There was a skating trail there this past winter and plans for festivals, art installations, creative marketplaces are in the works. The section from Strachan Ave. to Fort York Blvd. is complete though plans have it eventually continuing on to Spadina Ave. It’s surprisingly attractive in a very urban way, and currently home to a pop up event called “Dinner With A View.”
I hadn’t been to the Bentway and was intrigued by the concept — a gourmet dinner cooked by René Rodriguez (Top Chef Canada Season 4 Winner) in unique terrarium-inspired frameless domes, so attended the media preview.
The entrance off Strachan leads through a series of faux grass covered panels to two levels of bars with a view of 30 clear geodesic dome tents lined up neatly below. The night of the media preview was chilly so fires blazed in tall gas patio heaters, and I drank a tasty Negroni while wishing I’d been offered a hot toddy.
We were led down to our tents just as it began to get dark. The interior of each dome fits one of four themes and has the decor and plant life to go with it. And they did glow very invitingly. I was happy to see that mine included sheepskin covered chairs and knit blankets as well as a heater (March in Toronto is not al-fresco dining weather). Many Insta-worthy photos were taken.
Inside it was very quiet. A perfectly intimate setting for a group of four to six people. And we did have a lovely time chatting as staff came in and out with food and beverages. I have less to say about the food.
The appetizer was a slice of roasted eggplant with roasted red peppers and frisée (like my favorite app from the ’90s minus the goat cheese). The options for mains were short ribs, pickerel and roasted celeriac with vegetable sides and good sauces. We all found them tasty but the portions were very small (especially for the price — the meal is $140 each depending on how many people share your tent!).
The dessert had many different components: meringue, a frozen mousse, pear gelée, spiced caramel candy and more. It was perhaps the most interesting part, but by then my feet were frozen and I was wishing desperately for a warming beverage of any kind which was not offered. Verdict? Go for the unique experience of eating in a refined setting in a super urban environment, have a snack before, and dress warmly.
Dinner With A View runs in Toronto from March 28 to May 2, and in Montreal from April 16 to May 18.