Address: Two locations:
152 Spadina Ave., Toronto
20 Bloor St. East Unit R1-2, Toronto
As I sit here writing this, I can hear thunder rolling in the distance and can feel a cool breeze on my skin. Perfect weather for some tea and cake, I think to myself. Although, anytime is 'perfect time' for tea and cake for me. Which is why, almost every week for the last two years, I've ended up at Le Gourmand Grocer Caf? sometime after 3 pm for my tea (and by tea, I mostly mean cake) break.
It must be the banana bread pudding which always brings me back, either for it's generous proportions or combination of flavours. One thing is certain, it's definitely best eaten fresh as I've learned after receiving the slightly hardened corner slices mid-afternoon. Still, when it's good, it's delicious; the bread soft with mashed banana and a crust thick with chocolate chips and icing sugar.
It's a tie for 'second place with the mini nocci cookie and the chocolate 'bomb'. While the nocci may be small, it's a crumbly mouthful of glorious chocolate, suitable for one.
The chocolate 'bomb', on the other hand, is suitable for two. Covered in a dusting of icing sugar, it appears robust on the outside but is in fact a delicate explosion of dark chocolate mousse on the inside. Still, it leaves you wanting something more. It needs an extra punch of something - Cardamom? Mint? Raspberry? Orange? Hazelnut? Chilli? Something.
Next on my list is most definitely the chocolate chip walnut cookie. It's quite simply, the best cookie in the world. Yes, that's what I said. After all this, there's still much to be had at Le Gourmand. The croissants are good although not great. The raisin croissant is decent; flaky but a little on the eggy side for taste.
The blueberry scone is delicious, but ask to have it warmed and buttered to really make it worthwhile.
The lemon poppy seed muffin is not terrible, but perhaps better when fresh out of the oven in the morning. I must say, it was a nice compliment to the "Taylors of Harrogate Lemon & Orange Tea"; a wonderfully invigorating tea.
I was unlucky with my chocolate raspberry tart I ordered one afternoon, which melted by the time I got home (it was a really hot day), but I'm glad to say it still tasted good. Although I am a fan of the occasional Turkish Delight of the rosewater kind, the mastic Turkish Delight was not to my taste. I found the flavour to be sickeningly sweet with an overwhelming aroma that wouldn't go away afterwards. During the summer season, they serve a selection of gelatos which, according to owner, Milton Nu?es, is brought in from La Paloma Gelateria & Caf? in Toronto. However, I have to say apart from the hazelnut chocolate, the gelatos are quite disappointing. The raspberry flavoured gelato tasted like a "maybe it's Maybelline's", while the mango had a very tart after-taste.
If you have time, you can sit in a cane chair under the high-ceiling with fans circulating lazily above you while you sip your tea and gaze up at the giant wall of goodies on one side of the cafe. They have a wide selection of chocolate bars, teas & coffees (Illy, Dean & Deluca); olive oils, pastas, sauces, vinegars and other products, which can be made into gift baskets if you so desired.
Le Gourmand's prices are a little on the high side, but the atmosphere is nice and the service is pleasing when you get an experienced staff member. The separate queues for ordering food versus drinks can be confusing if you've never been there before but because everyone is so friendly you'll find you aren't annoyed when you leave with your brown bag full of goodies.