The Maple Leaf Tavern has been a resilient resident of the Leslieville community for over a century. If its walls could talk, I’m sure they would have some pretty colourful stories to share. Built in 1910, the tavern’s previous iterations have been a rooming house and drinking hole, but the current owners undertook a gorgeous renovation and the interior now features two impressive rooms featuring leather banquettes and dark wood tables. On this occasion, Torontonicity was invited to visit the charming patio, tucked discreetly beside the tavern and gated from Gerrard Street East passers-by.
My dining partner started with a refreshing Champagne Cobbler served with a fresh piece of pineapple from their Cobbler cocktail menu. The patio is serving this classic beverage in several fruity flavours including raspberry, pineapple, blueberry jam, grapefruit and lemon.
Our server also brought us a plate of garlic bread, $12. The garlic bread contained a gooey filling of cheese and was topped with shredded parmesan. I almost mistook it for a piece of cake it was so pretty.
The summer menu created by Executive Chef Jesse Vallins features a good number of meat dishes, but there are many dishes to please vegans and vegetarians as well. For instance, we started our meal with an Heirloom Tomato Salad with Fennel. Heirloom tomatoes are known to be deliciously fruity and these did not disappoint and were complemented beautifully by the sweet-and-bitter flavour profile of fennel.
I couldn’t get enough of these tasty spears and indeed, our server advised us that they tried to remove this from the menu, but brought it back due to their clientele’s protests. The chili and garlic provide just enough heat to turn bland broccoli into something grand.
Sauteed trout with watermelon and sunchoke, $29, was a revelation. I don’t often order trout because I seem to remember it being a heavier fish with a strong flavour, but it was in fact light with a mild flavour. Watermelon provided some refreshing sweetness to the fish while sunchoke’s chewier texture provided a nice contrast.
Pastrami-smoked short rib, $30, is another delicious menu item for meat-lovers! The tender rib was full of flavour and easily fell off the bone. It was served with corn salad and sweet and hot mustards.
Grilled Fennel with Toscano cheese crust, tomato coulis and basil jalapeno sauce topped with watercress, $24, had a rich flavour. I would have preferred the fennel to be more tender – it was quite difficult to slice. Perhaps it could have been steamed for a minute before grilling?
We were served a selection of local cheeses from Monforte served with a delicate onion preserve, $18, which included goat cheddar, Buffalo Tomme, a firmer cheese made from buffalo and goat’s milk and Bel Haven, a Quebec cheese that is similar to brie. My favourite was the goat cheddar, which was much lighter than regular cheddar and had a pleasingly drier texture. I also enjoyed the mildness of the Buffalo Tomme.
Our extended meal was finished with a sinful Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream Bar, $10, which Maple Leaf Tavern has arranged to make exclusively in partnership with Haagen-Dazs.