What's the vibe
O&Bs latest venture strays outside the downtown core with a new spot located inside the historic C.H. Gooderham House in St. James Town. Built in 1883, the former home and lodging is absolutely dripping with history – something the French restaurant isn’t shying away from.
The spirit of the Canadian distillery family, the Gooderham’s of Gooderham and Worts, who lived here in the late 1800s can be felt in the well-stocked bar; the fireplace inside the dining room practically echoes the sound of Ernest Hemingway's typewriter tapping away during his tenure at the Selby Hotel as the Toronto Star’s foreign correspondent; while the secret speakeasy in the basement is the perfect homage to legendary gay nightclub Boots Warehouse which reigned here from 1994 until 2000.
The restaurant has been artfully restored with original woodwork and even a safe utilized in its present-day guise, while modern touches like plush green and burned orange banquettes alongside kitschy wallpaper (the monkey-patterned wall in the sunroom is screaming out for a cocktail picture) brings things up to date.
What to drink
Maison Selby's cocktail list is so deep, it necessitates being split into two categories. While you can't really go wrong with the "Favourites" side of the menu, the Selby Mule, which eschews traditional vodka in favour of Mexican spirits and raspberry flavours for a spring twist on the popular tipple, is a definite winner. Meanwhile, Hemingway's Daiquiri, with El Dorado rum and grapefruit juice, is another nice nod to the restaurant's storied history.
On the "Classics" side of things, diners can opt for fresh and zesty drinks like the Paloma, or go straight-up boozy with cocktails like the LPC Pink Panther, made with custom Dillon’s spirits specially created for Maison Selby (sneak a peek of their cool labels up on the bar).
Local favourites are well represented in the beer corner, with Blood Brothers, Rainhard and Indie Ale House ales, and even a Maison Selby Wit beer on the list. A selection of Western European (Italian, Spanish, French) and Ontario wines are also available. If you want to keep the drinking going after your meal, head downstairs to the *cough* secret basement bar, Sous Sol, for $10 cocktails and bar bites.
What to eat
Executive chef John Horne's food might seem like simple French cuisine, but there's a delicacy of touch and attention to detail with everything on the menu here. From indulgent hors d'oeuvres and delicious entrees to weekend brunch, decadent dessert, and even chef's tasting menu, there's a Parisian plate with your name on it.
If you haven't seen that cheese pull on social media by now, we insist that you order the French onion soup to witness it for yourself. Made with a generous portion of gruyere and a rich and delicious broth that takes two days to prepare, there's absolutely nothing gimmicky about this delicious starter.
Keeping it Gallic, the escargot is another great entree that only requires a little patience and tong handling for a garlicky and buttery payout. For the main event, we tried the beef bourguignon, served with pommes purée and crispy onions, and the coq au vin in a gout-inducingly sinful crimson mushroom, bacon and red wine jus.
Though you might be approaching stick-a-fork-in-me levels of food coma, stay with it. You'll be rewarded with a creme brulee that Ernest Hemingway would surely have written home about.
Dinner and drinks for two: around $135
592 Sherbourne St, 647-943-1676; maisonselby.com