Heralded by many as one of Toronto’s best new restaurants back in 2019, Donna’s has spent the last four years cooking up cozy yet innovative dishes, such as lamb liver on toast and pea salad with frisée and jalapeno, and a truly world-class roast beef sandwich. Now, Ann Kim, Jed Smith, Peter Jensen and Christine Oldham, the folks behind the sweet little spot, are mixing up something new with the Golden Peacock.
The quartet has always been interested in cocktails as part of the overall dining experience. “We are all fans of going out and having a good time,” she says. They wanted to create a laid-back, welcoming bar and grill with food that was familiar, but not typical of the local bar scene, so they opened the Golden Peacock in November. “Our vision included a very concise but thoughtful selection of food items, local beers on tap, wines from small producers and fresh takes on classic cocktails,” Kim says.
They tapped bar consultant Sophie Weinstein to design their drink list, and bartender Emma Forbes to sling the booze. There’s the Golden Negroni, which swaps in Montenegro for Campari and adds Lillet Blanc. Another favourite? The Lupini-Tini, named, according to Kim, for their love of both alliteration and waste reduction. Their take on a dirty gin martini uses lupini brine leftover from their marinated lupini bean snack.
The lupini bean is just one of the spot’s homages to its former incarnation as a Portuguese bar: the menu also features seasoned toasted fava beans, along with Portuguese cheese. The owners were excited to put the kitchen’s grill to use. “Our food is unique,” Kim says, “because we try to be different but approachable and make food that we would want to eat.” So far, they’ve tossed upon the grill beef heart with aji panca (Peruvian red pepper), green onion and cilantro, and octopus with red pepper and pumpkin seed, plus a pair of burgers: a Whopper-style option and an eggplant one. They also serve French fries (with chili-oil ketchup) and breaded mushrooms, because, Kim says, “every bargoer deserves some fried snacks, too.”
Kim and company really savour being great hosts — and crafting cool cocktails for thirsty patrons is a big part of that. “Cocktails in particular bring diners joy because it’s a simple pleasure that makes the patron feel taken care of,” Kim explains.
So, where do Kim and the Golden Peacock flock fly when they’re in the mood to be taken care of? Here, Forbes shares five hidden-gem cocktail bars worth a visit.
Famous Last Words, 392 Pacific Ave.
“Tucked away just off Dundas Street West in the Junction, this book-themed bar is putting out some great drinks. The space is both cozy and worldly, perfect for folks out there who enjoy conversation and literature more than a loud bustling party.”
Black Dice Café, 1574 Dundas St. W.
“This Brockton Village bar feels both vintage and timeless due to its theme of Japanese rockabilly, a subculture that gained popularity in the 1980s that paid homage to the greaser style of 1950s America. They employ a colourful aesthetic in their decor choices and have a killer selection of Japanese whiskies and sake-based cocktails.”
Bar Mordecai, 1272 Dundas St. W.
“This Little Portugal room is moody, luxe and romantic. The drinks are elevated and sure to please, and the food is delicious to boot. Also, if you feel like getting weird with your friends after a round or two, there are private karaoke rooms in the basement to sing your heart out.”
The Shameful Tiki Room, 1378 Queen St. W.
“As Toronto can be miserably cold for much of the year, having a place that transports you to a tropical destination with every sip is a treasure we should hold dear and visit often. You can also visit their nautical-themed sister bar, Port Light, up on Bloor in Dovercourt Village.”
The Hole in the Wall, 2867A Dundas St. W.
“If you grew up reading ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ or are a fan of similarly fantastical stories, then you probably always hoped to find a tiny portal to a secret space. You get into the Hole in the Wall through a tiny, unassuming door that leads into a super-skinny room with soaring ceilings that seem spatially impossible when passing by on the street. The shelves are stocked sky-high with booze, and the cocktail list is full of classics.”
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