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Bannock (An O&B restaurant)

Spotted this morning at Queen and Bay! Windows papered over with O&B symbols but with a large sign saying "bannock - canadian comfort food coming soon". So I guess another O&B location is coming downtown, taking over the former Timothy's World News Cafe.

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  1. i thought that part of the revamping of the bay was that they had signed on O&B to create restaurant(s) in their stores nationwide? i'm not sure where the timothy's is... but that intersection is appropriate.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pinstripeprincess

      It is the southeast corner of Queen/Bay, connected via HBC and also to the Simpson tower.

      1. re: pinstripeprincess

        Interested to see what goes in there and the hours...!

      2. Yeah, as pinstripeprincess posted, this was part of the announcement of 0 & B joining together with another company (I think Compass?) to do take over food service at various Bays across Canada. Looking forward to see what they come up with, definitely will be better than the Timothys!

        Interesting to hear the name they chose though, I didn't know this before.

        1. The name is ridiculous. I'm sure I'll get a good laugh out of my friends up North.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

            My thoughts exactly. Gotta love cultural appropriation. Pemmican hors d'oeuvres, anyone?

            1. re: sgogo

              There is actually a place just opened up that advertises pemmican, on the Toronto Life website. Chef is native bu I can't imagine the traditional preparation being used.

          2. There's info on the O&B website: New restaurant at Queen & Bay announced: 'Bannock'

            Related: O&B Announces Expansion Plans with The Bay

            1 Reply
            1. re: canmark

              Proper signage went up on the weekend. Walking by this morning, saw there were people inside, and some sitting outside on the little bit of patio... seems like it's open but I think it's just for media previews... says they are opening next week! (Will post in the openings thread once it's official!)

              1. re: bringonthelbs

                I have been passing by this place for weeks now, and curiosity has been peaked. Will have to go in and try the High River Pho.

                1. re: bringonthelbs

                  Has anyone been to eat there yet? The menu looks quite good - some appealing comfort dishes - if, and this is a big if they are executed well.

                  1. re: cubmike74

                    I went today. The tourtiere was quite good, will definitely order again. Also sampled the mac and cheese, which was nothing spectacular.Got a bannock appetizer which came with a smoked tomato jam that was quite nice.

                    Also, be warned that a number of things have changed on the menu. The Pho is not being served, and I believe the chowder has been removed as well. I can't recall if anything was added in their place.

                    1. re: JMFJ3

                      I went last night. The food was good (not great) the ambience great, service excellent.

                      Chicken Pot Pie: to rich for me, and I think I tasted truffle oil, which did not suit it (or at least should be mentioned in description).
                      Steak: My friend head steak, he seemed to like it, but not love it
                      Split Pea Fritters: saw them, wish I ordered them, they look like yummier falafel

                      Menu Changes: I asked why they changed the menu, particularily why the Pho was yanked. Apparently it was not up to the level they wanted it, but they are working on perfecting it and will add it back on as soon as they feel it worthy.

                      I would go back, but am not dying to go back. Will watch menu for the return of the Pho.

                2. Does anyone know if the Bon Appetite Cafe on the 8th floor is still open? This is the cafeteria operation of the Bay that overlooked Old City Hall. I know it was still open in early August. I think the plan was to close it about the same time as the O&B operations opening. I'm hoping for a last visit in early September.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: T Long

                    I called the Bay and was told the Bon Appetite should still be open in September....exact closure date still unknown. Basic, inexpensive lunches but fantastic view.....last chances to partake. Am I the only one in the city sad about the O&B takeover of operations at the Bay?

                    1. re: T Long

                      "Am I the only one in the city sad about the O&B takeover of operations at the Bay?"

                      Why so sad T Long? Who would you rather see take over the food service operations? Cara Foods or The Compass Group?

                      Compass Group
                      455 10 Ave, Cochrane, ON P0L, CA

                      1. re: petek

                        I was fine with and patronized the old operations run by the inhouse Bay staff. I will miss the old Arcadian Court and the Bon Appetite cafe. I know the old bottom line drives everything and that great 8th floor space was probably underachieving in removing money from our pockets. I have nothing against O&B in particular and they certainly have the sexier operations, but they are everywhere already in the city. I'm just lamenting the disappearance of something more unique.

                        1. re: T Long

                          I hear ya T Long.It just makes more fiscal sense for The Bay to parcel out it's food service operations and concentrate on their retail side of the biz.

                          1. re: petek

                            It's also more in line with their repositioning as a higher end 'boutique' supplier with menswear brands like band of outsiders, steven alan, fillipa k drkshdw, etc...

                        2. re: petek

                          Couldn't O&B do it all? Why the partnership with Compass, who in my opinion is about as creative when it comes to restaurant food supply as Sysco is? Unless Compass is just supplying the napkins and cutlery.

                        3. re: T Long

                          It seems like you have to go out of the way to get up to that floor but once you're there, it's like a secret that should be let out. Maybe the Bay is right to focus on it's retail strategy but if they'd pick up on this gem of a space and make it part of the Queen street store experience it could make for a substantial transformation.

                      2. Tried it last night because my wife was hungry (I wasn't too hungry). A little pricey, but the food's flavorful, the ingredients are quality, the interior is warm, and the service is friendly. Here's what we had:

                        BLT Bannock: Thick cuts of bacon, non-mealy tomatoes and baby arugula. The bacon isn't salty like the stuff in your fridge, the tomatoes could've used more flavor and the arugula added a nice peppery note. Plus there was a hint of tarragon(?) that went well w/ the horsemayo.

                        Pickerel taco: This isn't your usual fish taco. First off, the tortilla reminded me more of bao than tortillas. The fish tasty and topped w/ an apple and cucumber slaw that added some sweet, tart and crunch.

                        Sweet potato fries: Crispy, fluffy and piping hot. They go well w/ Kozlik's spicy brown mustard so ask for some.

                        S'mores pie: Rich, chocolatey, not overly or tooth achingly sweet at all despite all the marshmallows and chocolate. This is a winner.

                        It's spendy, but go ahead and treat yourself since it's hard to find food this tasty at a lower price point.

                        1. Had a terrific lunch here today, the roast duck poutine pizza which is a bit of a gut bomb but very tasty, if perhaps a little heavy on the sweet caramelized onions. And we tried the burger, which was excellent, and they cooked it with a touch of pink inside which made me happy.

                          I need to go back and try a regular poutine, because the chicken gravy they are making really hit my sweet spot. Add to that stellar fries and Monforte curds and I'm thinking Bannock may be a contender for best poutine in the city.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: childofthestorm

                            Also had a good lunch. Excellent service; from the hostess who offered a magazine while I waited for my friend, the busser who walked me over to the restrooms, and the attentive and engaging server. They all seemed sincere rather than robotic.
                            The room is nice but made up of hard surfaces which can amplify the din. This wasn't a problem for a table facing each other at a lower level, but the server had to lean in to hear.
                            It seems all of Toronto is finally on board with making a better burger by giving you a better bun: milk or egg. The patty itself was a touch pink, as stated above, and flavourful, even though some of the flavour came from a cumin based spice mix. The lobster roll again had a good bun and tender lobster. The mac and cheese looked like a soup but the roux was cheesy tasting with a hint of nutmeg and chopped walnuts for crunch. I thought everything was good, decently sized and properly priced.
                            The s'mores were very intense and needed a coffee to wash it down. The doughnuts were excellent, soft inside without being pasty and golden outside. I would have been even happier if they were a smidge bigger.
                            I also couldn't help but notice that the overall crowd was good looking and smartly dressed. The Bay must be very happy. There were no Tip Top suits in sight and given the room it doesn't lend itself to a business meeting.
                            I wouldn't go out of my way to go back, but if I'm in the area, which we all are at some time, I'll be happy to eat there. Given that the menus are similar, Gabardine has some competition. I like that Gabardine are the independent, little guys and that their burger is better, but the mac and cheese at Bannock is far better.

                          2. Just grabbed a quick bite on Sunday. Had a "tourtiere" bannock - spiced ground pork, rutabaga chutney, pickled onions. Completely inhaled it. I still can't get the thing out of my mind. Who can deny salty fried bread with well prepared toppings? Need to go back and try more.

                            Also had a pain au chocolat - flaky, not too buttery, and took a slightly new spin on it by adding cocoa to the flour for a double chocolate hit.

                            From what I know Anthony Walsh (Canoe) did most of the consulting on the menu. He nailed it.
                            This format would be perfect to export to other neighbourhoods or other cities for that matter. My favourite of the O&Bs that I've tried so far.

                            1. I haven't been to Bannock, but it's been on my list for a while. I was pretty impressed with the range of vegetarian options on the menu.

                              I'm a little concerned though after reading Amy Pataki's review: http://www.toronto.com/article/701370...

                              It looks like the bannock is made with duck fat but there's no mention of it on the menu, which is a problem for us veg folks. Unless they make a duck-free version for the veggie bannock?

                              Obviously, this doesn't mean I won't go, just that I'll be careful in ordering.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: piccola

                                Interesting. Thanks for pointing that out. If you find out for sure either way I would be curious to know... Like McDs that were frying french fries for a while in animal fat

                                1. re: ylsf

                                  I plan to go in the next month, will def report back.

                              2. Heading there tomorrow. For those who have been, how large are the portions? what could two normally hungry people order? (should we share an app if we want dessert? or are the apps pretty small?) Any advice would be great. Thanks in advance. Totally looking forward to it.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: hungryabbey

                                  Two guys ate 3 mains and two desserts for lunch. I imagine I could eat an app, main and dessert, mind you I would be full.

                                  1. re: dubchild

                                    So, the place was pretty full at 7 pm last night, but service remained excellent. It was attentive, relaxed, friendly and knowledgeable, without being annoying, or too intrusive. The room is really nice, I like the wood walls and warmth of decor (though,ironically, it was a bit cold in there for my liking) . Unfortunately, the fact that there was a huge window along one wall that overlooked into the Bay really ruined the whole effect for me. Suddenly, I felt like I was dining in a department store dining hall which is NEVER the feeling you want to have when you're trying to have a nice meal out.
                                    But on to food. I had an amazing Caesar with a maple bacon garnish. Can't say it tasted much like maple, but it was one of the best Caesar's I have had in the city- for my taste at least. The rim seasoning in particular was just perfectly balanced.
                                    We ate:
                                    Habitant Split Pea soup with smoked ham hocks and maple vinegar: Again, didn't taste the maple, but this was a delicious soup regardless. It was very thick and hearty and perfect for a cold fall night.
                                    Split Pea Fritters with Koziks Mustard Mayo and Rocket: So these were kind of like a falafel, but made with split peas instead of chickpeas. A great concept, and the flavour was lovely (I especially liked the mustard mayo), but I felt they were too overdone and hard. I like a crisp exterior, but these had spent too long in the fryer and as a result were a bit tough. I also found the plating really clumsy, like the ingredients had just been thrown onto the plate. Like, why did they have to rip the fritters in half for me? The dish would have looked much nicer if they had been left whole.
                                    Carne Pizza with smoked meat, pinge prosciutto and soppressata : A delicious pizza that had an interesting thick (bean, I think?) paste in place of sauce. A pretty heavy spread, but the flavours were nice.
                                    St-Canut pulled pork tourtiere with honeyed roots and peas and heinz ketchup: I was a bit disappointed with the tourtiere only because when you put "pulled pork" in the title, I have an expectation of a certain level of pull-ed-ness (?) Obviously,I know that tourtiere is usually not made with pulled pork, but still thats what I had been promised. I wanted some nice tender chunks of pulled meat, but instead most of it was a round texture and grey colour. And while I did like the pastry, and I could detect a little bit of warm spicy aromatics (i.e. cloves) I found the meat underseasoned and as a result, needed a lot of those little Heinz packets to enhance it. The side of veg also were underseasoned, and I didn't actually detect any honey at all.
                                    Canoe fireweed butter tart: Luckily, Bannock definitely redeemed itself with an amazing butter tart dessert. The pastry was flaky without being dry, and the center was gooey and sweet. It wasn't a very dense filling, but it was very sticky and satisfying. Would definitely order again.
                                    So, for 3 alcoholic drinks, sparkling water, 2 apps, 2 mains, a dessert (oh, and a side of peas-which were a special request), the bill was about $125 with tax and tip- I think pretty reasonable for the amount of food/drink consumed. I would definitely return because there are so many things on the menu I want to try, and actually, I think this will make a great dinner option after a day of holiday shopping.

                                2. I had dinner with a small group of friends at Bannock a few days ago. I went in with muted expectations as I anticipated safe food catered to the shopping and nearby office crowd. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised.

                                  The room and decor was nice but unfortunate if your only view was the inside of the Bay. Luckily, we were seated in an area with a view of Queen West.

                                  Onto the food. I began with the soup of the day (mushroom), which tasted like the same soup I've had at O&B Cafe many times. Rich delicious broth bursting with mushroom flavour, and not overwhelmed with cream. Our group also ordered the duck poutine pizza to split as an app. We weren't sure what to expect but loved what arrived - tender duck, crispy fries, aromatic rich gravy, decent non-squeaky curds on addictive crispy bannock. As for our mains, we had the following:

                                  -Chicken pot pie filled with tender chicken, perfectly cooked veggies, very saucy and topped with a flaky buttery crust. Mashed potatoes were nothing special. Overall, perfect comfort food that hit the spot on a cold rainy night.
                                  -Lobster roll layered with crisp romaine, chunks of sweet lobster meat tossed in creme fraiche rather than mayo, and pinned together with a toothpick holding a slice of sweet yellow carrot and half a grape tomato. My fav version that I've had in the city although I have not tried the one at Rodney's or Diana's. The best I've had ever in my limited samples would be from Luke's Lobster in NYC.
                                  -Seared teryaki tuna. Although good, I thought the other two mains were better.

                                  Although beyond full at this point, we couldn't resist ordering the smores pie which was phenomenal and wolfed down in less than a minute :) The dessert was surprisingly not overly sweet or rich, and had just the right amount of decadence after a filling meal. The perfectly torched marshmallows had a bit of crispy skin that broke open to reveal hot, soft oozing marshmallowy goodness atop a bed similar to a soft brownie. On the side was a berry compote that had a kick of alcohol in there.

                                  To complete the pleasant experience, we had a fantastic server who set the positive tone from the beginning. Perfect balance of friendly, helpful and knowledgeable without being too intrusive.

                                  1. Happy with Bannock again. Apart from the usual to report (good service, fair pricing, proper seasoning etc..), the portions seemed really large. The duck poutine pizza which arrived at our neighbours table looked like it could feed four. I was happy with a half portion of soup, a caesar salad, and a salt cod app. The salt cod doughnuts were especially good, they seemed more like gooey golden salt cod fritters versus a doughnut stuffed with salt cod. I also noticed some fabric squares on part of the ceiling to dampen sound, which I didn't notice the other times.

                                    1. Tried Bannock a couple of times in the past week. The first time was because we were in the neighbourhood and the second time was to sample more dishes.

                                      The first time we had friendly and attentive service. The second time they forgot one dish, but made up for it by comping our dessert.

                                      In terms of food:

                                      The Habitant pea soup tasted of smokey hocks, but the advertised laurel was undetectable. Still very good.

                                      The pickerel tacos were a winner. The fish was perfectly cooked; the steam bannock was nice and chewy; and the pickled rutabaga and whitefish(?) caviar provided nice accents.

                                      The lobster roll, as previously mentioed was great. Sweet lobster meat on a sweet bun.

                                      The Bannock bannock while sticking to tried and true combinations (cream cheese, smoked salmon) was well executed. They should up the Canadian quotient by using Forbes oxeye daisy capers instead of regular capers.

                                      The duck poutine pizza is very filling, but surprisingly not slaying in its excess and richness.

                                      The boiled dinner was a surprisingly small portion, but was still good. The beef tasted of Montreal steak spices and the cabbage, carrots, and daikon were all moist and flavourful.

                                      The s'mores pie is as good as others have said, but the sweetness of the buttery crust and the milk chocolate need a coffee to wash them down - if they switched to darker chocolate, this could be corrected.

                                      Overall, pretty consistently tasty and not too pricey.


                                      1. Not sure if mentioned before here but if you want to try the tourtiere, you can order it at the counter (they will go and get one from the back/warm it up). Takes like 10 minutes or so. Pretty good option if you are in more of a hurry and don't want to sit down/order. I tried it a few weeks ago and enjoyed it. Worked out to around $12.50/$13 (with tax I think)

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: ylsf

                                          I didnt think the tourtiere was amazing. I found it really dry and a little underseasoned.

                                        2. Any recent reports from Bannock? I will likely be eating there this weekend for the first time (just had take out/counter service before).

                                          Any must tries? (Had the tourtiere already so I would try something else).

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: ylsf

                                            Last went in July. The pickerel steamed bun remains a winner. I would just have a double-order of these. The fish is fresh and lightly cooked. The buns combine nicely with the apple-cucmber salad.

                                            1. re: ylsf

                                              Their poutine might be my favourite in the city, and I'm from Montreal so poutine runs deep in my veins. Literally, I guess.

                                              1. re: childofthestorm

                                                Thank you for this note... I've been trying to find a good poutine place that would make my ex-Montrealer cousin happy. She's tried smoke's and a few other places but found them lacking. I'll send her here and see if she likes it!

                                            2. Went back to Bannock this week. Disappointingly we've found more of a mix of hits and misses on the menu than when we first started going.
                                              Really enjoyed the special soup - cheddar and broccoli. The pickerel buns (formerly called tacos) remain a huge favourite of ours. Had the cauliflower and anchovy salad, which was nicely spiced with a hazelnut dukkah, but was really a spinach salad with a small cauliflower and anchovy garnish (felt a bit like false advertising). The BLT bannock was tasty but we found the house made pork belly a little bland and had hoped for more of the advertised avocado. We also tried the chicken pot pie which we found overwhelmingly rich/buttery, though we really liked the mushroom thyme flavour. We had a local apple juice too which was wonderful.
                                              I have to say I really miss the lobster or shrimp rolls they used to serve, and I loved the cod fritters too - and the Jiggs dinner was such a great idea. Thankfully they still have that incredible duck poutine pizza - will go back for it on a really hungry day…

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Klafouti

                                                Thanks for the review.
                                                I was there for Winterlicious lunch - great value at $15. Both the soup and salad appetizers were excellent - but the pizza fell short - soggy and cold. It was sent back and the replacement was much more acceptable.

                                                1. re: Klafouti

                                                  I haven't visited for a few months, but I have been happy with the salmon (edit -the menu's fish options have changed since my last visit, and trout has replaced the salmon), chicken pot pie and buttertart over the past year.

                                                2. I loved the chili and the butter tart. Yum.