BY DON DOULOFF
Tucked away on Ward’s Island, about a 15-minute ferry ride from Toronto’s waterfront, the Rectory Café is the city’s best-kept secret.
In warm weather, the spacious, tree-shaded patio seems a million miles away from the city and is an exceedingly pleasant place for a leisurely lunch or dinner. The food, under the guidance of chef Richard Chambers, is perfect for summer, emphasizing salads, dips and sandwiches, along with entrees that skew towards the lighter side.
The daily soup, a chilled creation, deftly balances cucumber and watermelon and is jazzed with ginger and mint. Note to chef: Consider making this your go-to summer soup.
A hearty, subtly flavoured Mediterranean salad brings attractively mounded chickpeas, Israeli couscous, diced onion and tiny cubes of gloriously unsalty feta on crisp greens bathed in an herb-rich vinaigrette.
Smooth, cumin-scented hummus is topped with intense sundried tomato pesto, while labneh (strained yogurt that’s silken and richly textured) is drizzled with citrus olive oil and topped with cloves of melt-in-the-mouth, sugar-sweet roasted garlic. Both come with warmed pita bread and black olives.
Chargrilled calamari, rubbed with lemon, is tender and smoky and dressed with scallion thyme aioli. Oozing a creamy artichoke/dill stuffing, a fat slab of salmon is moist and delicate. French beans and curried Israeli couscous ride shotgun.
Among desserts, feather-light, moist French apple pudding cake, drizzled with caramel, and dense and rich flourless chocolate orange torte, send smiles around the table.
The patio, which accommodates 110 people, seated and 200, cocktail style, is available for group buyout (except Fri-Sun in July and August). Groups of up to 30 can also be accommodated on the patio and, in inclement weather, in the indoor restaurant.
Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 25 years and, during that time, has critiqued almost 1,000 eateries. In 1988, he studied the fundamentals of French cuisine at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne, in Paris, France. During his time in France, he furthered his gastronomic education by visiting the country’s bistros, brasseries and Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine. He relishes exploring the edible universe in his native Toronto and on his travels throughout Canada and abroad.