Henry's restaurant patio is an unforgettable, romantic summer dream

Casual fine dining spot in Toronto, Henry's restaurant's back garden patio is as romantic as they come. Sip on wine from their novel-sized selection and dine on incredible fare in the magic of it all.

It's a quiet summer evening when I visit Henry's restaurant on Queen West for a date night with my partner. The last few days, the weather has been all over the place — the perfect deterrent for the hordes of people who usually flock to Toronto's best patios at this time of year.

The restaurant itself is so beautiful, I'm almost tempted to sit inside the elegant yet soft cream space. But the last time the Foodism team visited Henry's, when it was freshly open and topping the best new Toronto restaurants lists, we sat indoors — so the patio it is. Now that it's been open for a couple of years, and the shiny draw of something new has worn off, I'm eager to see if Henry's still lives up to the title of one of the best restaurants in Toronto.

Henry's restaurant: The patio vibe

Behind Henry's restaurant, sheltered from the noise of Queen West, the back garden patio is gorgeous. Hemmed in by sophisticated slate grey wood fencing with foliage pouring over the edges, the black and white tables and chairs are surrounded by greenery. Herbs grow everywhere you look, from garden boxes and pots to the actual garden flanking the patio, planted by owner Ben Hodson.

In addition to being on the list of Michelin-recommended restaurants, Henry's also doubles as a Toronto wine bar and bottle shop. You can feel that relaxed, slow-sipping vibe in the air. It oozes that casual, flirtatious romance of lingering eye contact and soft giggling into the night, thumbing the stem of a wine glass and punctuating conversation with slow sips. In opposition to Toronto's flashy dining scene, Henry's is quiet luxury.

Henry's restaurant: What's on the menu

It's hard to pin down exactly what kind of cuisine Henry's serves. The eclectic menu circles around different continents without ever landing in one place. This dishes are delicious, diverse and decidedly different. 

Fluffy housemade sourdough with St. Brigid's butter, and warm marinated olives are the first to reach our table, and leave us clamouring for more. The only trouble with the snow crab tostada is trying to evenly break apart the crispy chip that's piled with the crustacean, greens and dollops of Oaxacan salsa. A true test is whether or not your date will let you have the last piece.  

Before it arrives, we're told that the shrimp toast has never been taken off the menu. It's such a renowned dish that it was even featured in National Geographic. We're eager to get our gobblers on the snack and try it for ourselves. When we do, it's crispy, crunchy perfection. In that moment I realize that no chip, cracker or snack will ever crunch the same way again. It's all ruined compared to this sublime, savoury bite. As I chomp down on the firm (but not so jagged it scratches your mouth) sesame-encrusted exterior sandwiching a creamy mixture of shrimp, I keep thinking the enchantment will wear off, but every bite is better than the last and I keep dunking and munching until the bitter end. I would go back to Henry's restaurant for the shrimp toast alone. 

We're almost full when the mains arrive. Charred white asparagus in a slurp-able peach hollandaise and topped with crispy chicken skin is a taste of spring. Just added to the menu, the red sea bream's crisp surface gives way to a light, delicate underside swimming in vichyssoise and punctuated with hakurei turnips. It's onion-y and fresh without any one flavour being overpowering. I'm quite critical when it comes to fish so I don't often order it, but this I could eat again and again, especially in warmer months. 

Spicy and full-flavoured, the Korean fried chicken is served with a cooling white kimchi coleslaw. However, our mouths are set ablaze again with the small kimchi dish we also order. It's a fiery, but palate-pleasing combination that's soothed with glasses of wine.

For dessert, the almond crêpe dentelle is a tart and sweet summer treat with refreshing lemon mousse and rhubarb sorbet. We scrape up every last drop, even though we're stuffed to the brim.

Henry's restaurant: The wine list

Owner Ben Hodson's other venture is a wine importing and distribution business, and it certainly shows. The wine book (yes, it's a whole book) is magnificently long and exceptionally curated. Oenophiles will love pouring over the variety of bottles that will never make their way onto an LCBO shelf, while novices can relax and enjoy the sheer deliciousness of the pours, guided by the staff.

Knowledgeable servers, like the lovely Lolo who takes care of us during our visit, will walk you through the different vino — even if you don't know what any of it means. "The grapes are grown in volcanic soil, so it has a lovely depth to it, a little bit of smoke, dirt — in a good way, nice stone fruit, a little bit of peach, strong backbone," Lolo says as she pours a 2022 Puro Rofe Tilama, a white wine from Lanzarote, Spain. We're only left scratching our heads for a moment before she sums it up by saying, "Fantastic, dry, goes wonderful with everything."

She's right. Although my palate might not be sophisticated enough to taste the nuanced notes of "dirt" or the "backbone," this wine is delicious and pairs exceptionally well with everything on the table. We also try a refreshing sparkling from Spain and a wonderfully jammy, smoky 2022 Arnot-Roberts Syrah from California.

I'm hooked. Between the beautiful wines; the creative and delicious plates; the impeccable service; and the charming, laidback atmosphere on this gorgeous back garden patio, I've fallen head over heels for Henry's. In my dreams, this splurge-worthy spot would be my regular go-to, but for now, all my wallet can handle is regular visits for shrimp toast and a glass of wine. The full, lights-out meal and wine pairings will have to wait until the next special occasion date. I'll be counting down the days. Henry's, and its back garden patio, truly is a magical spot.

Dinner and drinks for two: Around $150 before tax and tip.