In recent weeks I have had to entertain a lot for business purposes, and so have spent several evenings at each of Jacobs & Co, Barberians, Cluny, La Societé and Le Select. Each is distinct, each having its pros and cons, each certainly suitable to take clients. Jacobs' beef and sides are usually first-rate (though they once sold off a rib of a supposed Royal Winter Fair winning steer which turned out to be the toughest and most characterless steak ever tasted, sucker that I am; and someday they will regret not offering a selection of every day wines (as does Barberian's) to supplement their expensive main list. Barberian's is old school and accomplished. Cluny is stylish, but until the Distillery area builds a parking lot count me out in future. La Societé has a great location, free parking underneath after 5 pm, a a good vibe and tasty-enough food.
But I gotta say that I was reflecting last night, sitting on the front terrace of Le Select, how much I always feel relaxed there, and enjoy its cuisine, accomplished service, broad selection of wines at all price points: an overall professional operation that is just a tad formal yet generally welcoming. I feel confident business clients will enjoy it, and that with friends we will catch up without lapses in food or service or endless interruptions asking how we like this or that. (Always feel that if you're capable of reserving a table and driving a car you probably have the capacity to complain if something is amiss.)
I doubt anywhere else in the city, at least in my experience, offers on one menu as well-prepared and toothsome standards as their onion soup, steak tartare and steak frites, together with crème brulée and that old favorite Floating Island. It doesn't try to be anything it isn't; and what it is is very good - reminds me a tiny bit of Chez L'Ami Louis in Paris which has a different menu and sensibility, but is very comfortable in its own skin without being the slightest bit pretentious. Anyway, just a shout out to the owners (almost invariably at least one is present) and staff of an estimable Toronto institution!
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