The chill had just begun to settle into my skin as I pushed open the white windowed doors of The Gabardine. Soft light pours over me while I weave through a second set and make a sharp turn to sidle past the striking marble topped bar and into the main space outfitted with panelled walls and a sparkling tin ceiling. I scan the small room looking for my friends and they’re tucked into the banqueted nook where I was expecting them to be. They’re just getting into drink orders as I squeeze myself into a chair at the end of the table and peel a couple layers off in the warm room. Taking my time to decide, plates settle onto the table as part of an apology for not tracking our reservation correctly. It’s the Deep Fried Beer Cheese Croquettes with Maple Mustard. They’re completely forgiven.
Starting off with the crisp golden sticks and their gooey interior appropriately sets the tone for a seasonal menu of hard-working comfort food with a base of familiar Canadian ingredients and a couple nods to the multicultural face of Toronto. The maple mustard sauce resembles chutney with its sweet, spicy and chunky texture. It balances out the richness of the croquette filling that finds its pliability from a béchamel mixed in with the cheese and ale. Our orders have gone in and soon we’re poking our forks into Kolapore Springs Smoked Trout with Celeriac & Apple Remoulade, Sunflower Seeds and Crispy Jerusalem Artichokes. It’s a light creamy salad with spots of sweet and bright crunchy tang melding with delicious and tender smoked trout.
Seafood tends to be my main preference at The Gabardine. It’s always cooked perfectly. Their daily fish special can range from tacos to fish and chips or my particular favourite, the Lobster Roll. Tonight, I’m in luck. The Lobster Roll doesn’t have the split top bun wickedly fried in butter anymore and instead borrows the po’boy bun. The filling is still succulent and sweet with a healthy amount of mayonnaise and a tarragon hint. My friends are more enamoured with the Shrimp Po’Boy – crisp, tender and well spiced. We’re most impressed by the portion of the Chicken Pot Pie with Herbed Pastry Crust, as the meal continues we agree there must be a quarter of a chicken hiding in its silky herbed sauce and flakey exterior.
As the meal ends, it’s all too tempting, so we order nearly all the desserts. The Burnt Marshmallow Ice Cream Sandwich delivers everything we were hoping for. It does overshadow the Chocolate Whoopie Pie with Dulce de Leche Cream & Cinnamon Sugar Peanuts as the fluffy cream interior squishes out with each fork cut. I love the surprise of the crunchy peanuts but some diners miss them as they ooze out with the cream. We’re a little torn by the Lemon Cardamom Sugared Donuts with Crème Anglaise & Stout Caramel, they’re nice but the cardamom is a little lost on the exterior instead of having some time to bloom and really shine in the batter. The Stout Caramel is gorgeous, a touch of bitterness but a lot of rich roasted flavours. My favourite is the Pudding Chomeur, a warm maple soaked apple cake topped with spiced walnuts, mostly because of the great texture and mild nuttiness of the sesame sponge toffee on the side. A little candy delight that I’m glad is beginning to make the rounds on dessert menus.