Eden of the east

The Broad­view Ho­tel could do for the east end what the Drake Ho­tel did for the west

Thornhill Post - - Food - by Macken­zie Pat­ter­son

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

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