The Insider’s Guide to TIFF 2016: where to eat, drink and party

The Insider’s Guide to TIFF 2016: where to eat, drink and party

Rub shoulders with Hollywood royalty at these surefire festival hot spots

America America.
 Photograph by Dave Gillespie
Where secret Republicans schmooze

325 Bay St., 416-637-5550
The 31st floor of the Trump Tower is a cathedral of new money, where finance bros power-lunch and wigged cocktail servers blonde enough to be the Donald’s daughters deliver bottle service. Andrew Garfield, Eddie Redmayne and others have paid surprise visits, and rumour has it that a Harry Potter actor brought along her own goat cheese tart recipe and asked the kitchen prepare the dish to the letter. For the less demanding, we recommend letting chef Bill Osborne do what he does best: classed-up southern comfort food like foie gras flapjacks.

Where to party like your parents are away
The Addisons Residence

456 Wellington St. W., 416-260-9393
King West meets high school party house at the Addisons: punch is served in Solo cups and kitschy family photos hang on the wall, but the sprawling patio and games room (foosball, tabletop shuffleboard) are beyond a 16-year-old’s most decadent fantasies. Last year, Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen—stars of the Hank Williams biopic I Saw the Light—feasted on an ornate cowboy hat–topped cake.

Where to make a rezzie for TIFF 2017

604 King St. W., 416-865-1600
Chef Rob Gentile’s flagship Italian restaurant reliably attracts boldface celebs: Sandra Bullock, Megan Fox and Bill Murray have all eaten there. The festival crush can make it nigh-impossible to get a reservation in the cavernous King Street space, so try heading down the street to Buca’s more relaxed sister-restaurant-slash-café, Bar Buca, for Campari cocktails and porchetta sandwiches.

Where the pasta is the real star
Buca Osteria

53 Scollard St., 416-962-2822
Buca’s outpost at the base of the Four Seasons is a Yorkville establishment, typically populated with silver-haired socialites dining on paper-thin slices of seafood charcuterie. But during the festival, Rob Gentile’s legion of Hollywood loyalists venture north of King, drawn by Buca Osteria’s rarefied Italian fare. Witness the ravioli doppi, a pillowy double-stuffed pasta with striped shrimp and halibut. At $42, it’s outrageously decadent—in other words, the perfect dish for TIFF.

Where movies are always on the mind

11 Duncan St., 647-660-0909
Moviegoers fill Charles Khabouth’s Middle Eastern spot year-round, snacking on paprika-dusted marcona almonds and sipping cocktails before migrating a block to the TIFF Bell Lightbox. During the fest, star power displaces the plebes: the space is all but booked solid with cast dinners, elaborate affairs fuelled by the restaurant’s vodka-and-pomegranate cocktails. Last year, Salma Hayek, Adrien Brody, John Travolta, Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore all partied it up before or after hitting the theatre.

Cabana Pool Bar Cabana Pool Bar.
 courtesy Cabana Pool Bar
Where the stars get wet
Cabana Pool Bar

11 Polson St., 416-479-7645
This spacious (and, yes, ostentatious) lakeside club offers a decidedly grown-up spin on the pool party, with a casual-chic dress code and the chance to spot any number of celebs: Drake, Will Smith and Justin Bieber have all been known to drop in for a dip. The bikinis and slushie bar (where you can add a shot of your preferred booze for an additional $8.25) are better than the humdrum sushi and pizza offerings, but even second-rate nachos taste great in the VIP cabana of the right leading man.

Where you’re most likely to spot an undercover Notebook star

66 Wellington St. W., 416-364-0054
Chef John Horne is famous for introducing Hollywood A-listers to the finest seasonal Canadian fare. Last year, Jason Priestley and Molly Ringwald swooned over the restaurant’s maple candied salmon, and Robert De Niro fell for the roast chicken—even if he deigned to eat only the left breast and leg. Eagle-eyed servers have spotted hometown girl Rachel McAdams on several occasions, too, despite her habit of booking reservations under an assumed name to blend in with the Bay Street expense-account crowd.

Where the wine list is out of this world

522 King St. W., 416-504-3939
The centerpiece of this lofty, 8,000-square-foot Italian resto is an epic, glassed-in wine cellar with thousands of bottles to pair with a lengthy, Tuscan-inspired menu. Last year, the cast of The Martian (Matt Damon, Kate Mara, Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover and others) hung out in Cibo’s dining room, where they chomped on salmon crudo, chianti-braised short ribs and whole, oven-baked branzino prepared by chef Saverio Macri. On another night, John Goodman and Bryan Cranston sampled a selection of the restaurant’s pizzas after the premiere of their screenwriter biopic Trumbo.

Where the stars get shucked
The Chase

10 Temperance St., 647-348-7000
Jake Gyllenhaal, Jessica Chastain, Denis Villeneuve and Jean-Marc Vallée have all hung out at this flashy surf-and-turf destination—part of the Chase Hospitality Group, where, during TIFF events, menus are themed to the movies, and the gimmicks (like flame-throwers and oyster-shucking lessons) are, honestly, a little out of hand. Even if the VIPs are absent, the view from the fifth-floor terrace and the excellent seafood on offer—king crab, albacore tuna—are worth the visit.

Where Haymitch mixes the drinks
The Drake Hotel

1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042
The city’s hippest boutique hotel is way off the beaten path for TIFF-goers, which makes it all the more impressive that it consistently draws an array of A-listers. Gerard Butler and Chris Evans have stayed in the hotel’s kitschy-cute rooms, while other celebrities merely parade through: Keanu Reeves, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rose Byrne and, fittingly, Drake. This year, the Sky Yard is decorated like a scene straight out of 1960s Palm Springs (a diving board, pastel-coloured everything). Stop by to see if it will, like last year, be Jared Leto’s favourite hangout, or if Woody Harrelson will mix cocktails behind the bar again.

Nao Steakhouse Nao Steakhouse.
 Photograph by Dave Gillespie
Where celebs get their paleo fix
NAO Steakhouse

90 Avenue Rd., 416-367-4141
The swanky Yorkville steak house is less than two years old, but it’s quickly becoming a hot spot for star sightings. Atom Egoyan held his post-screening party for Remember at the elegant, Asian-inspired restaurant during last year’s festival. No word on whether or not Christopher Plummer and co. came back the next morning for the $130 sturgeon caviar and blini brunch dish, but don’t let that stop you: this year, there’s a good chance Hollywood’s carnivores will crave NAO’s delectable Kobe strip loin morning and night.

Where the DJs dine
Drake One Fifty

150 York St., 416-363-6150
The Drake’s downtown outpost is Moby’s favourite place to eat in town—he was spotted there several times—and Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning’s preferred place to perform late into the night. Last year, the One Fifty hosted after-parties for Deepa Mehta’s Beeba Boys and for Hyena Road, the Paul Gross war flick starring Rossif Sutherland. This year, star chefs from L.A.—including Neal Fraser (Redbird) and the Instagram-famous brunch spot Eggslut—are taking over the kitchens at multiple Drake locations.

Where everyone wants to be Italian

295 Adelaide St. W., 647-748-3446
Two months before Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji’s Italian joint opened last November, chef Anna Chen treated Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and the rest of the Spotlight cast to an exclusive, one-off dinner—the restaurant’s first meal. Early bookings started months ago, so expect more celeb sightings this year: the stark, classy-casual room couldn’t be closer to the Lightbox, and the menu—wood-fired pizzas, house-made pasta, custom cocktails—is superb.

Where to hit four star spots in one

190 University Ave., 647-253-8000
David Chang’s multi-storey complex is a hot spot for star spotting at any time of year, but during the festival expect to see celebs on the third-floor patio of Daisho splitting the new “large format” cocktails. Jake Gyllenhaal dropped by Chang’s take on a steak house during last year’s TIFF, as he does every time he’s in town. Since opening in 2012, the three dining rooms and cocktail lounge have hosted Al Pacino, Felicity Jones and Liam Neeson—ramen and pork buns being the perfect snacks for fuelling up between premieres.

Where the desserts Stay Puft

299 Adelaide St. W., 416-599-0299
This sprawling California-inspired eatery is a restaurant after an actor’s heart: it’s co-owned by director Ivan Reitman, Ghostbusters and Meatballs photos line the walls, and there’s a secret passageway out of the dining room for stars who want to escape undisturbed. No wonder, then, that the spot hosted so many megawatt soirées last year: Martian man Donald Glover, Room star Brie Larson and Spotlight director Tom McCarthy joined Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Ruby Rose and Michael Shannon before the screening of their LGBT cancer flick Freeheld. Sandra Bullock ordered a couple of helpings of chef Jonathan Waxman’s eponymous crispy potatoes at the Our Brand Is Crisis after-party. And George Clooney lounged around, drank and chatted for four straight hours, because why not?

Patria Patria.
 Photograph by Dave Gillespie
Where big names eat small plates

478 King St. W., 416-367-0505
The lavish Spanish-style tapas bar was one of the fest’s choicest post-movie gathering places last year. Jake Gyllenhaal and Naomi Watts swung by after the festival-opening screening of Demolition. Watts returned a few days later with her About Ray co-star Susan Sarandon and super-producer Harvey Weinstein. Helen Mirren and Elisabeth Moss also made cameos, and the spot’s already booked for three official post-screening parties this year.

Where to order afternoon tea with Queen “B”
Shangri-La Lobby Lounge

188 University Ave., 647-788-8281
Every September, the Shangri-La’s crisp, cordoned lobby bar becomes a glamorous business hub—and a prime place to randomly run into top-tier celebs. The banquettes and tables around the fireplace are prime seats, coveted by studio execs and frequented by filmmakers and their onscreen friends: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard had dinner here, and Dakota Johnson and Jake Gyllenhaal met up with George Clooney for drinks from the hotel’s famous champagne wall and ’30s-inspired cocktail menu (which includes the Queen “B,” made with honey from an apiary on the third floor). The hotel serves afternoon tea from 2 to 5 p.m. (last year, they made a special vegan version for Jessica Chastain), but the hobnobbing and deal making continue until last call.

Where it pays to be a member
The Spoke Club

600 King St. W., 416-368-8448
During TIFF, the Spoke has traditionally hosted pop-up parties by the global, French Riviera–inspired club collective Nikki Beach. This year, the exclusive spot is instead throwing a series of bashes with Villa Azur, the ultra-posh Miami-based restaurant group. Expect local celebs, Hollywood talent and outwardly cool (but secretly star-struck) Spoke members. The club is a popular industry hangout that has hosted galas for the Producer’s Guild of America, British Film Commission and many others. This fest will also be the first to include the joint’s Toronto Islands yacht club, Spoke on the Water.

Where there’s a party on every floor
Storys Building

11 Duncan St., 416-367-9000
The four-storey, 172-year-old brick building is ground zero for pre- and post-screening parties during the festival. Gerard Butler was practically a regular by the end of last year’s festival (he swung by to celebrate his films The Headhunter’s Calling and Septembers of Shiraz). Liam Hemsworth and Kate Winslet stopped in to celebrate their Aussie dramedy The Dressmaker. And Evan Rachel Wood and Ellen Page spread their star power over multiple floors at a bash for their post-apocalyptic CanCon flick Into the Forest.

Where there’s always someone watching
Via Vai

832 Bay St., 416-362-0123
With 45-foot floor-to-ceiling windows, this former art gallery is a stargazer’s fantasy: diners are literally on display as they nosh on Neapolitan pizzas, handmade pasta and smoked gouda arancini. Last year, the solarium hosted Sarah Silverman for her mental-health drama I Smile Back. This year, the spot will house a pop-up by L.A. restaurant Tagine, while executive chef Joe Friday will set up a pop-up of his own at the Lightbox.

Bosk Bosk.
 Photograph by Daniel Neuhaus
Where the wine overfloweth

188 University Ave., 647-788-8294
At the Shangri-La, chef Damon Campbell and his team are used to catering to stars. During his stay last year, George Clooney ordered the double-patty Bosk burger—only to carefully extract the second patty and eat it separately. Johnny Depp and his ex Amber Heard dined on hamachi sashimi one Saturday night, washing it down with three $2,100 bottles of his favourite French wine. (Depp reportedly ordered two more bottles to his room.)

Where Toronto meets Texas

480 King St. W., 647-660-0999
Long-closeted country singer Kiefer Sutherland picked the perfect spot for an après-cinema red carpet appearance with dad Donald, his co-star in last year’s quick-draw killer Forsaken. Weslodge, a “modern saloon,” is about as cowboy as it gets on King West: the vested bartenders wear leather gun holsters, and hunting trophies hang on the walls. The food has a rustic twist, too: there’s smoked beef tartare and fried chicken with a Tabasco-honey glaze.

Where you can leave your hat on
Windsor Arms

18 St. Thomas St., 416-971-9666
The historic boutique hotel brings a bit of colonial elegance to star-studded Yorkville. In 2015, Idris Elba and Elizabeth Olsen stopped by the annual InStyle party, and in-demand directors showed their films in the intimate, 15-seat private screening room. If you can’t afford one of the rooms, opt for a 45-minute salt-cave spa session ($45), make a reservation for fancy-hatted afternoon tea or sidle up to the bar for a pint—the five-star hotel has a five-star craft beer list to match.

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