Cafe Cancan adds a kick of colour to Harbord Street
Named after the lively dance, head to Café Cancan for a playful twist on a French fare along with bold flavours, fun decor, and a certain je ne sais quoi.
Location: 89 Harbord St., Toronto, M5S 1G5
Must-try eats: Indulge in their classic French onion soup made with tender braised beef and gruyere or their light and airy Parisian Gnocchi.
Libations: Keep it casual with their daily selection of Greenhouse juices or elevate your lunch with their signature horseradish Caesar.
Where to sit so you’re in-and-out in 60 minutes: Snag a banquette facing the interior of the cafe so you can admire the fun floral wallpaper and speckled sparkle floor.
After the Harbord Room shut its doors in 2016, Café Cancan swooped in to rejuvenate the pint-sized space. If the blush pink walls and playful decor look familiar, it’s because Café Cancan is the latest co-creation of Chef Victor Barry and designer Tiffany Pratt, the duo behind Piano Piano. But they kicked it up a notch with Cancan. Everything from the colourful duck motif to the mismatched pillows add to the cafe’s indescribable charm. Pratt says, “I wanted to create the kind of room that you feel cozy in, one that inspires you and completes the feeling of thrill long after the first bite of Chef Barry’s genius cuisine.”
The effervescent space seats 30, but the patio doubles that number in the warmer months. The long narrow space is best suited for small parties and is excellent for one-on-one conversations. For more privacy, you can rent the Flamingo Room, which is an intimate five-person banquette sectioned off by a curtain and surrounded by flamingo wallpaper—naturally.
Borrowing from its brunch and dinner menu, Cancan’s lunch selection is the perfect balance of light dishes and substantial entrees. For a modern take on a French classic, go for the French Onion Soup. Barry stays true to the quintessential bistro starter but he stuffs it with tender pieces of braised beef and finishes it with a generous layer of cave aged gruyere.
The menu features other French must-haves, like escargot and a selection of foie gras, but Barry also showcases lesser-known French dishes. The Parisian Gnocchi is a lighter version of the Italian staple, making it the perfect lunch option. The potato is replaced with pate a choux and it’s served with chestnuts, roasted squash, sage, and brown butter. And of course, you can’t visit Cancan without paying homage to the burger institution that once stood in its place. Honour the Harbord Room by ordering Barry’s signature burger — two beef patties on top of a bed of pickles and red onion and smothered with cheese.
Take a trip back to Canada with Cancan’s namesake Caesar—a blend of vodka, Tawse Pinot Noir, Carroll & Co Caesar Mix, lemon and horseradish. For something lighter try their Louis Bouillot “Blanc de Noirs.” The sparkling pinot noir is a crisp and fruity accompaniment to a heavier meal. Of course, Cancan also has coffee and teas, and well as a daily selection of Greenhouse juices and Franklin & Sons sodas. But nothing transports you to France quite like sitting in the quaint cafe and enjoying a glass of wine alongside the rich French flavours.