Grey Gardens is an oasis for Torontonians—especially so when it opened in snowy February, 2017. A hand-painted mural of palm leaves, muted pastel furniture, and soft gold accents throughout give the feeling that one has stumbled upon an enchanting secret garden. When the restaurant opens at dusk, jewel-toned bottles lining the back of the wine bar glimmer in the candlelight. Above the stoves in the open kitchen, a collection of Le Creuset cookwear in the prettiest pastel pink is on display.
The Kensington Market restaurant is the brainchild of Jen Agg (The Black Hoof, Agrikol, Rhum Corner, and Cocktail Bar) and chef Mitch Bates (Momofuku). It’s clear that for most staff, Grey Gardens is a dream project. Everything is handled with care, from the ceramic dishes used for plating to the warm, inviting service.
Bates leads the kitchen, where seasonal ingredients are prepared with subtle Asian influences, a nod to his Momofuku days. Tender, bite-sized octopus and shrimp come in a peppery tomato broth, and roasted sunchokes are perfectly paired with salt cod and olives. The deceptively simple toasted bread with schmaltz, and a trio of pasta dishes are ideal for sharing. It’s the type of food you’re always in the mood for and makes dropping by for a quick drink nearly impossible.
The wine bar features no less than 100 bottles. General manager and sommelier Jake Skakun says it “strikes the perfect balance between having a deep selection and still being highly curated.” His favourite wine available by the glass and bottle: Bellotti Bianco from Piedmont’s Cascina Degli Ulivi.
“The grape is Cortese and it’s vibrant and mineral-y while still being very easy drinking,” he says.
At just 30 seats in the dining room and another 22 at the bar, Grey Gardens is cozy. A private dining room downstairs, which provides a view of the glass-enclosed wine cellar, will undoubtedly be put to good use.
As for the similarity in name to the 1975 documentary on big and little Edie Bouvier Beale, Grey Gardens? Skakun says it’s brought up often, but the restaurant’s name was chosen as a poetic, alliterative nod to the muted but lush atmosphere of the room. However, he adds, “Jen also happens to be a fan of the movie!”
Photos by Jenna Marie Wakani.
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