There have been so many changes happening in the city and the Bloor Yorkville area continues to ramp up, offering more to locals and visitors alike. The latest refresh comes from the iconic Canadian retailer Holt Renfrew with the unveiling of the new Holts Café. Once known as a solid “ladies who lunch” spot, the newly revamped cafe already feels more inviting.
The restaurant located on the second floor has opened up with a more welcoming appeal. It still has the natural light streaming through the Bloor Street facing windows but now there are sections of the restaurants that offer a cozier dining experience. A private dining room is positioned off to one side that comfortably fits ten. The airy but not cavernous dining and lounge areas easily transform into more intimate spaces with sliding glass and wood partitions — good news for those special occasions and events. Soothing neutrals are modernized with complimentary jewel-toned blues and reds.
A significant change is there is more than one menu — Holts Café now offers up lunch, dinner, brunch and Afternoon Tea (weekdays) with more options. We’ve also learned that the restaurant will be extending their hours beyond the retailer’s business times. We visited during lunch service.
Newly appointed Executive Chef Benjamin Lillico was recently named as one of Canada’s Next Top Chefs by the Globe and Mail (October 11, 2019). His experience includes working in the highly regarded kitchen at Langdon Hall. He’s garnered awards at various culinary competitions including the 2016 Junior Culinary Olympics in Germany where, as captain, he led the team to gold and silver medals. At Holts Café, he’s introduced some beautiful new dishes while breathing a new life into customer favourites. Yes, the ladies who lunch crowd will be relieved that their go-to dishes were noted. Updates on Tartines, Nicoise Salad, and BLT Salad are welcomed. A new entry worth noting is the Organic Carrot Tart on the lunch menu that is both stunning in presentation and flavourful as a plant-based dish offering. Chef tells us the menu will focus on offering fresh, seasonal and local ingredients. Holts Café refreshes will roll out in several Holt Renfrew locations including Montreal, Vancouver, and Calgary.
Looking around the busy dining room on a Wednesday afternoon and we see the regulars (I’m certain I’ve seen the woman with the brilliant red hair here before), the business meeting crowd, and the stylish set. Holts Café is the complete opposite of that frenzied vibe that you may find…oh, say across the street. If you prefer a peaceful and relaxing dining experience with a solid menu and not in the mood of feeling like a sardine in a packed space nor are you interested in waiting in hour-long line ups, then this is an ideal choice. The vibe is unpretentious yet sophisticated and approachable. I still feel like I could quietly escape for a moment’s peace here even on my own.
It’s easy to lose track of time as we did here when lunch transitioned smoothly into after work and pre-dinner cocktail hour. Speaking of, the Holts Café cocktail list is gorgeous. Exquisite cocktails surprise and delight. The Smoked Manhattan is smooth and sultry. When the cloche is lifted and the cherry woodsy scent disperses in the air it evokes that feeling you get when you cuddle up in front of fireplace with blankets. It’s like one big bear hug. A refreshing bubbly cocktail aptly named “The Renfrew” will soon become a brunch favourite. We’ll place bets on it. Made with the tiniest “rose caviar” it’s as pretty as it gets. Temperance Cocktails (mocktails) are equally as tasty and beautiful — our eyes were drawn to the “Pink Popsicle” made with fresh juices and sparkling lemon.
In addition to the menu, it’s worth noting a few dishes that when ordered, will see a portion of the price donated to the H Project’s ongoing charitable partnership with #KnotOnMyPlanet campaign to benefit the Elephant Crisis Fund a wildlife conservation network. H Project is Holt Renfrew’s commitment and support of positively impactful products that are globally sourced from various cultures, communities and charities.