Restaurant Review: the Drake

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Restaurant Review: the Drake

Blythe Rogers

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Two decades ago, a walk along Queen West would mean watching your back and holding your bag close to your side. It is an area once seen as sketchy and dotted with homeless people, stoners, and artists, where much of the current infrastructure and businesses ceased to exist. However, then came the magical arrival of ~gentrification~. Those grungy underground art galleries soon transformed into cute cafes and “aesthetic” boutique shops. With the coming of these hotspots, came a new mecca: the Drake.

The “arts-infatuated hospitality brand” got its start in 2004, with the opening of the Drake Hotel. After that, the other properties flourished. The Drake General Store opened in 2008 with the vision of being a re-imagined hotel gift shop. To follow, the stand-alone Drake One Fifty restaurant opened in the Financial District in 2013. The next year, the company moved further north and opened the Drake Devonshire Inn in Prince Edward County. And their newest addition to the Drake Family is the Drake Commissary, which opened last year and stands as a hub for the food and drink of the operation.

Although they have spread throughout the city and even the rest of Ontario frankly, the true heart and soul of the business stands at their 1150 Queen Street West location, the original hotel and restaurant.

Known for its capitaviting brunch menu, I knew I had to give this hyped-up Toronto hotspot a try. Upon entering the older looking hotel building, I was immediately brought into this world encapsulated by eccentric and modern art. It was quick and easy getting to our table and was a breeze ordering our brunch food and various gentrified forms of the classic cup of Joe. The menu features fresh takes on classic brunch grub, like chicken and waffles with preserved strawberries and rosemary. Making a decision was difficult, but I decided to go with the smoked salmon drake benedict (their take on eggs benedict), while my sister got the “fancy” grilled cheese and my father ordered the breakfast burrito. For my morning buzz, I opted for the mocha hazelnut latte. It was smooth and subtly sweet with the rich coffee peeking through the nutty chocolate flavours.

The food came quickly with the accompaniment of friendly wait staff, but it took forever to actually get eating. While the restaurant mixes modern simplicity and eccentric art, it didn’t quite hit the mark with efficiency in service. It could have been a creative decision to have no salt and pepper and no sugar jar on the tables, but this left the wait staff in a constant flurry of attending to tables’ needs and the customers sitting impatiently with their food going cold. Once I finally got my ketchup, I could dig into my meal.

The egg yolks were poached to perfection and oozed out beautifully. The hollandaise was light and lemony and mended well with the bed of arugula that was between the egg and fluffy english muffin. The eggs benedict was seamless and the overflow of hollandaise sauce worked well with the side of breakfast potatoes. However, there was an overwhelming amount of smoked salmon which ended up on the side of the plate at the end of the meal. My sister thought that the flavours and blend of fontina and gouda in her grilled cheese was delicious, but that it was bit too rich for her, and she couldn’t finish the whole thing. My father said his breakfast burrito was tasty, but “nothing truly special” and that “he could easily have made it himself.”

Overall, the modern and artistic vibes of the Drake are the true catch. The food is tasty and a great twist on classic brunch dishes, but it’s not super unique and could easily be found down the block. However, if you are looking for the true experience of Torontonian gentrification and hipster brunch, definitely give this place a visit.

Pictured from left to right: The Breakfast Burrito, The Grilled Cheese, The Eggs Benedict, Old man trying to blend in with the hipsters

Reviewer Rogers gives it: ⅘ stars