The Hamptons: The vibe
A visit to The Hamptons restaurant in Toronto is like attending the best dinner party that you could imagine. Tucked down Clinton Street just off of College, the restaurant is set in an adorable house reminiscent of a Victorian-style mansion. Inside, settle into the homey space where marble tables, fresh flowers and white wood details add polish to peeling walls that give way to exposed brick. It’s as comfortable as dining at a friend’s eclectic home that oozes charm.
On arrival, every guest is greeted with a COMPLIMENTARY glass of sparkling wine — yes, you read that right — as if you really were arriving at a friend’s place for dinner. And the star treatment doesn’t stop there. The Hamptons is executive chef and co-owner Rachel Chartrand’s idea of the perfect dinner party, and along with fellow co-owner Michael Young and wine specialist Meaghan Murray, the small team delivers exactly that. The friendly, familial service feels like the way a best friend would dote on you during a visit — setting you perfectly at ease.
Tables are fairly close together in the long, narrow space, but it feels intimate and cozy. At the back of the restaurant, the fully open kitchen lets guests watch Chartrand work her magic — a one-woman operation whipping up hyper-seasonal fare for all of her guests.
The Hamptons: What’s on the menu
Chartrand’s menu changes often, showcasing the best local ingredients of the season pulled into flavourful and innovative dishes. With produce coming from 100km Foods, you can taste the fresh, in-season ingredients in Chartrand's cooking. Even the butter served with bread is seasonal and changes weekly. I'm usually cautious about filling up on bread at the start of a meal, but I couldn't stop myself from scraping up every bit of the green spring onion and pea shoot butter during my visit.
The venison tartare is made Instagrammable with a puffed rice cracker that twists around the dish and up into the air, but it's more than just for show. The light, airy cracker adds crunch while letting the venison tenderloin shine, with capers, black garlic and a creamy duck yolk enhancing the flavours.
Complimented by a light crème fraîche and watercress dressing, the savoury smoked salmon crudo almost caused a fight when it came down to the last few morsels. The seasonal salad was quite leafy with charred whole heads of romaine, but the flavours were all there.
For our mains, the wild pollack was light and flaky, and soaked in a slurp-able mixture of celery root juice, buttermilk and ver jus. The pasta of the night, orecchiette, came swimming in a green sauce featuring spring onions, along with fava beans and Ontario baby basil piled high with ricotta salata. My only complaint was that there wasn't more of it. The fresh, seasonal flavours felt like taking a bite out of spring itself. Chartrand is a master of taking whatever is in-season and creating something unexpected and spectacular out of it.
For dessert, the chocolate babka with coffee chantilly was the perfect sweet (but not too sweet) ending.
The Hamptons: What to drink
You can't go wrong with their list of cocktails, which includes a few classic serves alongside some originals. The Grape Juice is a slightly-sweet magenta mixture of Empress Gin 1908, lemon, Campari and red grapes, while the Tuxedo is a boozy and delicious gin martini with bitters and maraschino liqueur.
We started with cocktails, then switched to wine with dinner. Hospitality pro Meaghan Murray's expert wine pairings enhanced the meal even further. While they don't do a wine pairing with each individual dish, we trusted her to select a couple glasses that would go well with what we ordered, and we were so glad we did.
The flavours and seasonality of the dishes paired with expertly chosen wines was fine-dining quality but in a comfortable, rustically romantic atmosphere. The Hamptons is going right to the top of my list of go-to special date night spots.
Dinner and drinks for two: about $150.
53 Clinton Street, thehamptonsrestaurant.com