Eden of the east
The Broadview Hotel could do for the east end what the Drake Hotel did for the west
Peering out across Toronto from the rooftop of the new Broadview Hotel, one senses a change is afoot. With potted plants dotted about, criss-crossing Edison lights and a glowing ‘No Vacancy’ sign marking the exit, this space has come a long way since its notorious Jilly’s days.
Built in 1891 as a community hub, the Romanesque Revival building at the corner of Queen and Broadview has been assuming different characters ever since. Originally used as a hall for local meetings, it’s also been a gathering place for athletic clubs, a hotel and, yes, a notorious strip club.
Clinging to a seedy reputation for much of the ’80s and ’90s, rumours about an upcoming sale finally began to circulate in the mid-2000s.
In 2014, the east end–focused Streetcar Developments purchased the historic building. Three years later, the Broadview Hotel has just undergone its soft opening. With a hip, mid-century vibe, 58 guest bedrooms and three restaurant venues, the boutique hotel could become the Drake Hotel of the east. After all, Jeff Stober’s Drake ushered in the revival of West Queen West before spreading further afield.
Helping to ring in the change are Erik Joyal and John Sinopoli. The longtime restaurateurs behind area staples such as Ascari Enoteca are heading up the hotel’s food and bev program. With a café-slash-bar, a casual fine dining restaurant and a rooftop bar, the food scene at the hotel is set to be the star of the show.
Business partners for a cool 14 years, Joyal and Sinopoli both grew up in Toronto (although Joyal was born in Montreal). Both ended up in N.Y.C. for a stint. Joyal did hospitality management at New York University, and Sinopoli worked at the now-shuttered restaurant La Caravelle, an institution. They first met in T.O. when Joyal was developing a concept for a restaurant called Izakaya.
“I was sort of at the end of the business plan for this Japanese concept, and it turned out that John had spent a bunch of years in Japan, and he could cook all the food I was talking about,” Joyal says of their former restaurant.
After a good run with Izakaya, the pair sold it and followed up with a Riverside bistro called Table 17. A couple of years later, the itch to create returned, and the duo opened Italian eatery Ascari Enoteca. They also own Hi-Lo Bar, a Riverside watering hole pouring local craft brews.
Not content to sit on their haunches while tackling the Broadview Hotel, this past June Sinopoli and Joyal opened Gare de L’Est inside at 1190 Dundas St. E. as part of the Crow’s Theatre, a new east end cultural revival project.
“We wanted a fairly traditional French brasserie with a modern atmosphere and approach, but we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Sinopoli says. There, patrons dine on fare like moules frites, porc à la milanaise and crabe royal.
Their location in Toronto’s east is a common thread between each of Joyal and Sinopoli’s restaurants.
“The neighbourhood is a great mix,” Sinopoli says. “It’s family oriented, it’s young, it’s old, it’s working class, it’s culture class, it’s creative class, there’s professionals — it’s such an amazing blend.”
With three businesses in the area, the partners know what makes the nabe tick.
“There’s really a sense of pride and community,” says Joyal. “All the business owners support one another, and it’s not super competitive. It’s more camaraderie than anything.”
The Broadview Hotel brought new challenges. The main floor houses the café-bar, a casual meeting place serving staples like coffee, pastries from Forno Cultura and the Tempered Room and a short menu for each meal of the day.
“We wanted the café to be a hub place for professional meetings and social meetings,” Sinopoli says.
Meanwhile, the main restaurant, the Civic, has a far more complex menu than the café and looks to Victorian cuisine for inspiration. The aptly named Broadview burger — the only dish carried throughout all three of the hotel’s venues — features mushroom ketchup, which adds an extra element of richness, umami and moisture to the burg.
“In Victorian cooking, during the time when this was a hotel 100 years ago, there were umpteen flavours of ketchup,” Sinopoli says, citing cucumber as an example. “Tomato ketchup is just the one that survived.”
The dessert menu at the Civic also tips its hat to history with old school British dishes like brandy snaps, a fine sugar tube stuffed with brandy cream, and lemon chiffon pie. There’s also an Eton mess loaded with meringue, crème fraîche, strawberries and orange zest.
Although the menu at the Civic honours the past, the rooftop patio is all about the current upbeat energy in Toronto, serving modern fare like shareable fried smelts, flavoured popcorn, a foie gras parfait and kebabs. Sinopoli says to look out for the ceviche featuring bay scallops and a white sweet potato purée.
“The rooftop is all about fun,” Joyal says. “The ground floor carries the historical narrative of the building and the city, and as you travel up the building, it becomes a more modern experience; therefore, the food and the drinks and the service have to reflect that modernity.”
There’s no doubt that the hotel will be the catalyst for a completely new vibe in the up-and-coming east end area. Although it’s clear that Joyal and Sinopoli have always been big fans of the neighbourhood, they both agree that it’s about to get even better.
“There’s a sense of an underdog identity here, and we really identify with that,” Sinopoli says.
From the looks of it, it’s safe to say that this is how the east was won.
Clockwise from left: the rooftop, restaurateurs Erik Joyal and John Sinopoli, and a view out over the Toronto cityscape