Leslieville has become one of the hippest neighbourhoods to dine, drink, shop and live in Toronto (house prices in the area have gone through the roof over the last few years). It is also the home of Toronto’s best brunch restaurants and features gourmet cafes, vintage furniture shops and design stores.
It’s a smart business move on the part of chef Matt Dean Pettit and partners Michael Homewood and Darryl Fine, to open Rock Lobster’s Leslieville
As you walk into the restaurant, the first thing you notice is the big mural, painted by Matt’s father. This location’s design theme is “Canadiana.” The dining spaces are spartan with rustic wood furniture. There is a colourful bar space with strings of hanging lights, resembling a chic, do-it-yourself chandelier. The interior of the restaurant seats 50 people but additional space is available via three separate outside patios. The back patio is a perfect spot for group functions and parties in the warmer months.
Pettit opened Rock Lobster, Canada’s only lobster focused restaurant, in 2011. Originally a pop-up eatery (think food truck, but not mobile), Rock Lobster has grown to 3 permanent locations and one seasonal lobster shack in Kensington Market.
The idea behind Rock Lobster was taking the typically high-priced (and therefore, ‘special occasion only’) crustacean off the pedestal and putting it in the regular pool of dinner options.
The menu is devoted to Matt’s love of seafood. You can choose from lobster mac and cheese, lobster rolls or a complete lobster supper. There are also shrimp, oyster, crab and a few non-seafood items to select from as well. Lobsters are from a local supplier who receives regular shipments from Nova Scotia.
We started our evening with a beautiful cocktail – The Lovely Lorraine – made by bartender and mixologist, Aaron Beaudoin. There’s a great story behind the cocktail; Beaudoin created this drink to honour his grandmother, Lorraine. It contains a splash of gin, homemade fresh strawberry cordial, cucumber, mint and lemon juice. There is a lingering sweet taste of strawberry when you sip on this delightful cocktail.
Like beer or wine with your meal? You’ll find craft beers like Guinness, Creemore and others on the menu along with Ontario wines.
I’ve had lobster rolls on the coast of New England and some of the freshest fish imaginable. With that in mind, I was keen to try Pettit’s famous lobster role.
Maine style Lobster Roll ($14) (melt in your mouth)
Served on a hot dog-style bun that has been buttered and slightly toasted, these rolls are served with very generous (seriously, filled to overflowing) helpings of lobster tail and claw meat. Keeping the ingredients simple, the meat is very lightly dressed in mayonnaise. Served with Yukon fries.
Rock Lobster Roll ($14)
Chunks of fresh-cooked lobster that have been tossed in mayo and then loaded on a soft top-loader bun. The bread isn’t fancy rather a soft old-fashioned soft bread. After One bite you realize— a more savoury bread would compete with the flavour of the lobster. The Rock Lobster Roll comes paired with hand-made Yukon chips, which are delicious.
Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese ($14)
Made with fresh lobster, aged Canadian cheddar and a panko crust . The kitchen is generous with the cheese, and the shreds of lobster topping the dish made for a pleasant taste experience.
Green Jacket Salad ($12)
It will be interesting to see what Matt Dean Pettit and his partners have lined up next for Toronto. I
do know that his book “The Great Lobster Cookbook: More than 100 recipes to cook at home” is coming out shortly. Get your order in now because I predict it will be a hot item.
1192 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4M 1L4
NOTE: Our visit to Rock Lobster was hosted by the restaurant. The opinions expressed in this article entirely my own.