It seems Dupont Street in Toronto should be renamed Anthony Rose Way, seeing that the opening of Bar Begonia now totals, I believe, five ventures on the street alone.
Bar Begonia – located at 252 Dupont in the Annex – replaced an establishment called, Night Caps. The space was sitting empty for quite some time, and then I saw renovations taking place and a cute, smiley emoji sign going up, but with no name facing the street. Of course, this piqued my curiosity and I had to check it out. Bar Begonia is a Parisian style restaurant with a special focus on cocktails, that serves lunch and dinner 7 days a week. The afternoon menu has staples like croque monsieur and tartines, and by night dishes like duck confit and beef bourguignon.
I am so glad they cleaned this place up! The restaurant holds about 40 seats inside and is tight, the tables are small with barely enough room for your drinks and a small dish or too. People get bumped when you walk by and things easily get knocked off your table, that is how tight it is. There is a semi-circular bar that is packed with people trying the craft and draft cocktails. The tables are marble and the chairs are bistro style (impossible to hang a purse on those). There are a lot of drawings and pictures on the wall of naked women, and I was told they were going for a feminine look to the space. When the weather gets warmer there is a nice deck out front and they can double their capacity. They are also working on a fun backyard area, with picnic tables. I am told they will be serving more raw bar items out back and be setting up a bar there as well that will serve cocktails on draft. Also possibly a wood fire grill.
They got the vibe down perfectly. It was very noisy, lively and energetic. But for me the food underwhelmed and nothing was a knockout. In fact, most dishes were average. The portions are small so I would call this a French tapas restaurant. They serve French country-style home cooking and snacks. The menu is limited, and the real focus is on drinks – they seem to do this quite well. We enjoyed a glass of French rose and a cocktail called heart of glass, which was comprised of gin, Campari, pastis, lemon, and sugar. I thought this was an excellent cocktail with the right amount of bitter and sweet.
We sampled the sardine tartine with chili and aioli, which was good. The venison tartine was a disappointment, and I couldn’t taste the accompanied eggplant. The whole dish was too smokey tasting for me. The fried egg with mushrooms and creme fraiche was not hot enough and was way too salty to enjoy, and it needed some bread to soak up the sauce. The beef bourguignon was not bad, a touch salty too. The white fish bouillabaisse rouille was a lovely presentation and actually quite good, though it was served lukewarm and not hot. The best dish of the night was the frite. They came hot and crispy with a nice mayo for dipping. The flat iron steak on the table next to ours looked very good and I think that would have been a good choice as well. For dessert the chocolate ganache with praline should have had a richer creamier finish. The lemon tart was a better choice with a nice balance of sour and sweet and a good thin crust.
If I was to come back I think I would stick with the oysters, foie gras, charcuterie and the cheeses which come from the cheese boutique. That, with some French wine, a beer or cocktails seems the way to go. It is a place to go for a drink and a chat with friends.