7 Winterlicious restaurants with unique interiors

by Jennifer Riddell

We all know Winterlicious, produced by the City of Toronto and presented by YP Dine, is about more than just the food. The prix-fixe menus give everyday diners the opportunity to drool over lavish décor, romantic lighting and exquisite taste from world-class designers. Here are our top must-see restaurants from this year's line-up. [Photo credit: iStock]

7 Winterlicious restaurants with unique interiors
  1. Canoe
    $28 lunch; $48 dinner. If you want dinner with a view, look no further. Perched atop the TD Tower on Wellington, this swanky, stylish space boasts stunning views of the city and Lake Ontario from the 54th floor. Renowned for their creative take on Canadian cuisine, this prix-fixe menu is one you don’t want to miss: heirloom squash soup (you better believe it includes maple bacon), braised wild boar shoulder (with roasted parsnips, navy beans and caramel apple butter), and sticky toffee pudding for dessert.
  2. Leña
    $28 lunch; $48 dinner.  Located in the Saks flagship on Queen Street, Leña’s striking art-deco interior preserves a some of the building’s historic features – including the original grand staircase and marble panelled walls – but has been seriously upgraded with chic contemporary details, including the requisite Instagram-worthy floor tiles and colourful animal-print washroom wallpaper. The stunning octagonal bar is the centerpiece of the main floor bar, while the sophisticated second floor dining room features grass-lined archways and plush velvet booth seating. To accompany the beautiful decor, the Winterlicious menu includes dorade ceviche, braised pork shoulder and, for dessert, drunken prunes with brandy, saffron brittle and crème fraîche.
  3. Auberge du Pommier
    $28 lunch; $48 dinner. An old-fashioned uptown retreat for urban dwellers, Auberge du Pommier combines French country charm with high-class sophisticated service (think black ties, white table cloths). Enjoy lunch or dinner to the sounds of xylophone jazz and an array of crackling wood burning fireplaces in their exquisite dining room. For their Winterlicious “pièce de résistance” we recommend the duck confit croquette, made with torched orange, pickled Niagara pear and parsnips. Bon appetit!
  4. The Wickson Social
    $18 lunch; $28 dinner. This Toronto newcomer arrived in style. High ceilings, a 26-foot walnut bar and antique leather armchairs outfit The Wickson Social’s retro-rustic space … oh, and opposite the bar, an oversized mural displays a quirky cast of clothed wild animals (let’s just say it’s worth seeing in person). Their Winterlicious options are just as playful and creative. But the ultimate showstopper is the pork ragu, a medley of slow-braised pork shoulder, hearty greens, pappardelle noodles and grana padano cheese.
  5. Old Mill Toronto
    $23 lunch; $38 dinner. Located in beautiful West Toronto, Old Mill is a treasured historic landmark, hotel and restaurant. With original flagstone floors, beamed ceilings and glowing fireplaces, it’s a cozy, intimate space to enjoy with someone special on a snowy winter night. Dessert lovers: the pecan ginger cake (with warm citrus golden syrup glaze, chocolate pecan and cranberry Florentine) is everything you could want and more.
  6. The Carbon Bar
    $38 dinner. If you’re missing Southern-style barbecue this winter, Carbon Bar is your answer. Massive 30-foot ceilings, exposed brick, and maroon leather benches make this modern-style bistro a roomy space to dig into some gourmet grub. Pit-smoked Tamworth pork tacos, blackened sea bass (with mango and coconut salsa) and burnt Basque cheesecake (topped with preserved blueberries) are just a few Winterlicious features on their dinner list.
  7. Barnsteiner’s
    $23 lunch; $38 dinner. For a kitchen that serves traditional French, German, Spanish and Northern Italian cuisine, its contemporary-cozy European interior pairs well with the plate.

While you really can’t go wrong with anything on this uptown Winterlicious menu, we suggest the charred Brussels sprout Caesar with crisp bacon pecorino and endive, the snow crab with sweet curry and crunchy vegetables, and – save room for it! – the dark milk chocolate bread pudding.

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