This was my second visit to Bannock. Located on the corner of Bay and Queen Street in downtown Toronto, its location has to be one of the best in the city for tourists. It is steps from the Sheraton Centre (where we were staying), two blocks from the Four Seasons Center (where we went to see The Nutcracker), across the street from city hall and directly beside The Hudson’s Bay Store. It is so close that you can indeed look into the restaurant from within the store. Don’t be fooled that there is a convenient entrance from the store to the restaurant... at least there wasn’t one that we found. You’ll need to exit on Queen Street and walk 20 feet left to the main entrance of bannock.
As you enter, you can do one of two things: turn left and wait to be seated in the dinning area (open for lunch, dinner daily and brunch on Sundays) or you can turn right and go to the Cafe/coffee shop and have breakfast (as we did earlier that morning). It has a selection of salads, pastries including muffins, danishes, bars (Nanaimo, oatmeal, etc.) and simple breakfast sandwiches. The coffee was strong, the hot chocolate o.k. (“It was nothing special” said my teenage daughter) but the fresh baked goods were exactly that... FRESH and tasty. Those, I would gladly recommend.
If you are planning to have lunch or dinner at Bannock make sure to make reservations. I made the fatal mistake of not making reservations as we left the cafe to go shopping. I guess, I was just anxious to get to The Eaton Centre but that was a big mistake. When we returned at 1 pm the place was packed and the wait was half an hour long. Maybe not long in Toronto standards but we were on a fairly tight schedule so this delay was unplanned.
Making reservations is easy enough going directly to their website. You can select the number in party (1-20) plus the day and time of your reservation. They also provide options for other times if your time slot is not available. This is a great little feature so take advantage of it!
Fortunately, on our visit, they managed to get us in within 25 minutes. The server was very friendly and happy to answer our questions. She made some fairly good recommendations with the exception of one which was a total gaff. I have to admit, I blame myself for not really listening well enough to the ingredients to then steer my daughter clear of this ‘concoction’ (really its the only word that describes the Canadian Breakfast Pizza).
Alright so we will start with the worst and make our way to the best of our lunch experience.
The Canadian Breakfast Pizza is someone’s idea of a good hangover cure... Or that is what I got from the marriage of this odd combination of ingredients. This is what she got: a large, thin bannock crust pizza (bannock crust was very good) covered with salt cod-infused mornay sauce, with peameal bacon, black (blood) sausage and topped with two scotch eggs (bread-crumb covered soft boiled egg that is then deep fried) and finally toped with bitter arugula. WOW...
O.K. I need you to process that combination SALT COD creamy sauce with BACON, soft boiled eggs, blood sausage and arugula...Why would anyone put a fish based, cream sauce on a pizza then top it with some pretty strong seasoned meat and bland bacon? The bacon was good but the black (blood) sausage is an acquired tasted. Then they threw on a bitter leafy green... Yikes, not a good combination (unless you are hungover after bar hopping on George Street in St. John’s Newfoundland in the middle of a winter gale). I did tell my daughter that my dad would have loved the blood sausage. She was repelled (as most kids would have been) by the name – blood sausage – alone.
I have to say, this is not a dish that I would recommend to ANYONE. Because it was a daily special, it was not on the menu. If I had actually read the ingredients, I think I would have alerted my daughter to amend her choice. Alas, most of it was left on her plate.
She did get a piece of my mother-in-law’s choice: The Margherita Pizza. Simple. Delicious. A Winner. Once again we start with a crispy thin bannock crust, a tomato sauce, Ingersoll mozzarella, fresh basil and a few slices of fresh tomatoes for decoration. If you want to keep things simple and not venture to far afield – this is your go-to meal.
Now we start getting interesting: my other daughter and I choose the same thing: The Roast Duck Poutine Pizza. Yes, it is as decadent and mouth watering as it sounds. This was what I had had the first time that I visited Bannock a year ago and the vision and combinations of tastes has been with me ever since. I have dreamed of this pizza. That is how good it is. I have tried, on various trips, to get back to Bannock just to make sure it was as good as I remembered it.
Guess what? IT WAS AS GOOD AS I REMEMBERED IT!
This pizza is not for the faint of heart – literally. A review in the Toronto Star put the calorie count of this masterpiece at over 2,100 calories. Listen to me... it is worth every one of those calories. Don’t have a heart attack (pun intended) simply share it. It is big enough to share (and should be, to be honest with you) add a bannock Caesar and you.are.done.
Let me walk you through this: as with all the pizzas the bannock crust is the base, add caramelized onions (not my daughter’s favourite but a necessity), succulent shredded duck meat, chewy cheese curds and a lot of crispy French fries and there you have it... heaven on a plate. Poutine is one of the greatest French Canadian inventions and to have this on a pizza...well, brilliant. I can hardly wait to go back for brunch one more time and try the brunch poutine with corn beef brisket, cheese curds and fried egg. Hello!
Have no fear, there are plenty of dishes for those looking for less weighty fare. You can have the brunch parfait (Greek yoghurt, nut and seed granola, freekeh and dried fruit pilaf and dukkah spice). There are also ‘get your greens salad’, spinach and walnut salad and warm cauliflower and white anchovy salad. If you want fish and seafood, there are also delicious house smoked salmon for brunch, grilled octopus, blue goose rainbow trout or organic ocean albacore tuna for lunch or dinner.
This menu is compact but full, full, full of great savoury combinations. There are many items that need to be added to my tasted testing palate and I plan on a few return visits. If you are in Toronto and want a truly unique Canadian cuisine experience you must stop by Bannock and enjoy... but make sure to make reservations. If not, take a seat, have a coffee or a cocktail and wait. It is well worth it.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.