Friday, June 24, 2011

Eat here: Drake Summer School

The Drake Hotel is like that slightly smarter, more fashionable best friend: You love hanging with her but sometimes she makes you so jealous you could barf. Full of bright ideas and usually one step ahead of the best trends, the Drake has maintained its vision of being a hotbed for culture, always changing, never resting.
When it first launched (ideally in my neighbourhood), I liked the place but didn't love the food. We'd go for drinks, sometimes drinks would turn into so-so snacks, but in all these years I never once ate in the dining room.
Things took a dramatic turn for the better when Chef Anthony Rose was hired, his love of great ingredients and slightly upscale comfort food translating into a menu of things you want to eat.
Case in point: The brand new Drake Summer School Dining Hall, which launched this week and runs to September 4. Located in the dining room proper, the space has been designed as a cheeky ode to a sort of circa 1940s British boarding school -- think Hogwarts meets Hogtown. Basically, the walls are hung with all sorts of old school photos, trophies, textbooks and other crap, while communal tables look like retrofitted bowling alley lanes slung with comfy chairs and banquettes.
And then there's the food. Cocktails aim high but for me, fell short. Too much kitsch (eg. emptying out juice boxes and refilling them with dribbly sweet vodka-spiked lavender lemonade.) I love a solid theme, but hate sticky fingers. (Go to the bar to get a proper delicious Drake cocktail.)
The menu is a long list of both re-imagined school day favourites and retro classics, including a spectacular creamy tomato alphabet soup, Thousand Islands-kicked Shrimp Louis, buttery mushy peas and a gargantuan two-pound aged Cumbrae's rib steak (suitable for two feasters) that was incredibly cooked and boasted a whiff of smoke (teacher's lounge?)
You'll like Drake Summer School because it's hot, tasty fun, and it's just here during summertime, then it's gone.
Next up for the Drake's Dining Roadshow: Chinatown launches September 8th.

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