TIFF 2014 Insider’s Guide: Where to Eat, Drink and Party

TIFF 2014 Insider’s Guide: Where to Eat, Drink and Party

A highly discerning look at the festival’s hottest hot spots

TIFF 2014: Where to Eat, Drink and Party
The Chase (Image: Dave Gillespie)
Where everything sparkles

The Chase
10 Temperance St., 647-348-7000
The glitzy surf-and-turf room on Temperance Street serves up expense account dining at its finest. Last year, at the after-party for Enemy, Jake Gyllenhaal and Alyssa Miller were holed up in a booth with a view on the fifth-floor terrace, and Isabella Rossellini hung out nearby, laughing with friends, while director Denis Villeneuve schmoozed with Dallas Buyers Club director (and fellow French Canadian) Jean-Marc Vallée.

Where the action never stops

Luma and O&B Canteen
350 King St. W., 647-288-4715
The two restaurants in the ­Lightbox—Luma, the chic ­dining area on the second floor, and ­Canteen, the lively café on the ground level—are celebrity HQ, with Sarah Polley, Martha ­Stewart, Adrian Grenier and Rachel McAdams among the regulars. To accompany the films playing upstairs, Luma offers a movie-friendly lunchbox (featuring sandwiches, salads, macaroons and biscotti). Canteen is the best bet for a quick between-screening pit stop, with a solid selection of ready-made sandwiches and pastries.

Where the nibbles are gilded

116 Yorkville Ave., 416-961-9600
Mark McEwan’s room at the ­Hazelton Hotel showcases the film festival’s magic better than any other restaurant in the city. The swishy Yabu Pushelberg–designed space and wraparound patio are packed with stars: Jon Hamm looking for a light and knocking back scotch, director Brett Ratner hitting on hostesses, and Harvey Weinstein tipping generously. Jennifer Aniston, Robert Redford and Gerard Butler have also been spotted at the bar. The food—truffled pierogies and $190 Petrossian caviar—is made for ­diners who treat $40 entrées like cheap eats. And the decadence doesn’t stop at dinner: weekend brunch attracts hard-partying TIFF-goers nursing hangovers with eggs Benny and mimosas.

Where king west clicks

604 King St. W., 416-865-1600
Buca is one of the city’s busiest restaurants. During TIFF, the crowds quadruple and it becomes a whirlwind of wine and stardust. In past years, Bill Murray, Megan Fox, John Legend and Sandra Bullock have enjoyed Rob Gentile’s ­delectable Italian food. Many diners opt to stay tucked away in one of the private back rooms and avail themselves of the restaurant’s hospitality by venturing off the menu—one ­Hollywood heavyweight even ­custom-ordered a raw vegan dinner, though we think the Roman pizza, freighted with bottarga and quail egg ($21), is better. If the room gets too crowded, you can slip away and sip Campari cocktails at Bar Buca, ­Gentile’s new, lower-key snack bar down the street.

Where it’s a private affair

Grey Goose Soho House
192 Adelaide St. W., 416-599-7646
Getting into this exclusive London-based private members’ club is the hard part. Once you’re in, park at a corner table, sip vodka martinis all evening and gawk at megawatt stars. Last year, Scarlett Johansson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt huddled together at a table, talking and laughing like besties. The bash for August: Osage County brought out Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper and Abigail Breslin, plus ­Taylor Swift (who was in town promoting the movie One Chance) and Jason Bateman. Ralph Fiennes sat outdoors with director Ivan Reitman, then boogied to “Get Lucky.”

Where the a-listers recharge

Hudson Kitchen
800 Dundas St. W., 416-644-8839
Before it even opened to the public last year, the new restaurant at ­Dundas and Palmerston was hosting TIFF’s most paparazzied parties. That’s because Jordan Fogle, CEO of Mint Agency, which handles dozens of the city’s buzziest events, is an investor. Fogle’s L.A. connections brought Brad Pitt and director Steve McQueen in for the launch party, in high spirits after the premiere of 12 Years a Slave. Jennifer Garner and ­Matthew McConaughey made an appearance after their Dallas Buyers Club opening, and Atom Egoyan palled around with Colin Firth and Stephen Moyer.

Where the 2014 action is centred

299 Adelaide St. W., 416-599-0299
Ivan Reitman, famed director of Stripes, ­Ghostbusters and other ­seminal ’80s and ’90s comedies, has teamed up with New York chef ­Jonathan ­Waxman to open (just in time for this year’s fest) Montecito, a 12,000-square-foot, 280-seat restaurant behind the Lightbox (and the square that bears Reitman’s name). No doubt it’ll be party central.

Where the options are endless

190 University Ave., 647-253-8000
The three-storey Momofuku complex, adjacent to the Shangri-La Hotel, houses Noodle Bar for ramen, Nikai for cocktails, Milk Bar for baked goods, Daisho for fried chicken platters and Shoto for elaborate tasting menus. All of them will be packed during TIFF, but none more than the schmoozy patio outside Daisho: last year, Felicity Jones was spotted scarfing brisket buns as Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson play-wrestled.

Where to stay classy

Park Hyatt Roof Lounge
4 Avenue Rd., 416-925-1234
Whether for business or pleasure, the place to be is 18 floors up—the glittering rooftop bar still captures the romance of old Hollywood North. It’s also celeb central: Ralph Fiennes and Harvey Weinstein knocked back cocktails while they worked out the deal for Coriolanus, Susan Sarandon and Kevin Kline partied last year for The Last of Robin Hood, and Colin Firth has been known to close the place well after last call.

Where it’s ritzy

181 Wellington St., 416-572-8008
The restaurant and bar at the Ritz is an excellent stargazing destination. The complimentary bar snacks (maple-glazed bacon, pan-fried capers and corn nuts) make lingering that much more pleasant. The place is a favourite of George ­Clooney, Diane Keaton and even curmudgeonly celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who devoured multiple steaks on two consecutive nights while in town with his wife.

TIFF 2014: Where to Eat, Drink and Party
Drake One Fifty (Image: Dave Gillespie)
Where the party gets arty

Drake One Fifty
150 York St., 416-363-6150
The city’s Drake-ification picked up pace with the unveiling last year of a stand-alone downtown restaurant at York and Adelaide. It’s an update of a Parisian brasserie, with long leather banquettes and an oval marble bar that’s the preferred hunting ground of downtown party girls. It’s a rare spot where Bay Street suits and tattooed hipsters feel equally at home, and here they bond over extravagant côte de boeuf and bottles of the house wine, Fat Banker. The room buzzes late on a midweek winter night—it’ll be off the hook during TIFF.

Where the chianti flows

1095 Yonge St., 416-925-4020
Terroni has always been an actor favourite: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have stopped in while filming here, Lenny Kravitz dined earlier this year at Terroni Bar Centrale, and newly minted Torontonians Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy often stop by the Queen West location. While the original spot is a good bet, the dazzling Rosedale location is the place to be. The rooftop patio, at eye level with the Summerhill clock tower, is Miami-meets-Milan, full of glowing lanterns and air-kissing galore.

Where the food’s worth a rap

Sotto Sotto
116 Avenue Rd., 416-962-0011
The long-standing Av-and-Dav spot with the legendary antipasti became suddenly hot again last ­September, when Drake name-dropped it in his song “Pound Cake” and stopped by for a visit the following month. It’s also beloved by actors: Ewan McGregor and Johnny Depp have been spotted at the restaurant, Gary Oldman paid a visit while in Toronto filming RoboCop, and Mia Wasikowska goes for the bolognese.

Where the music thumps

The Hoxton
69 Bathurst St., 416-519-6784
James Franco loves the Hoxton, as do Zoë Kravitz and Michael ­Fassbender. And what’s not to love? The place is loud and sweaty and consistently puts on a good show. Following a performance at the Air Canada ­Centre last winter, Kanye West after-partied here with Drake—the two of them rapped, danced and swung from the rafters, all caught on ­camera-phone by star-struck fans.

Where to schmooze and booze

La Société
131 Bloor St. W., 416-551-9929
For most of the year, Charles Khabouth’s bistro is ground zero for power brokers and socialites, but at TIFF time the place can jump with the best of Khabouth’s nightclubs. It’s been a frequent haunt for Joaquin ­Phoenix, Gary Oldman, Amy Adams, Naomie Harris, Michael Kors and many a Rosedale millionaire, who splurge on the truffled mac and cheese (it’s worth the extra hour on the elliptical).

Where hollywood royalty settles in

Café Boulud and Dbar
60 Yorkville Ave., 416-963-6000
The Four Seasons is a hub for those who refuse to believe that the festival has migrated southward to King. At the eponymous restaurant from the famed New York chef Daniel Boulud, chef de cuisine Tyler Shedden prepares classic French food with ­Canadian ingredients—Cumbrae’s dry-aged strip loin, Nova Scotia lobster, suckling pig from Quebec. The people-watching is almost as good as the food: one night last year, we spotted Al Pacino hitting up Dbar, the lobby lounge, for a 3 a.m. snack.

Where the stars align

Thompson Rooftop
550 Wellington St. W., 416-640-7778
The Thompson is at its best during TIFF, when stars come to take in the killer view of the city. The rooftop is always busy, hosting alpha male A-listers like Brad Pitt and Michael ­Fassbender (chumming it up while in town to promote 12 Years a Slave), as well as art-house darlings like Léa Seydoux and Adèle ­Exarchopoulos from last year’s sleeper hit Blue Is the Warmest Colour. It’s the ultimate after-party ­destination—the bar stays open until 4 a.m. every night of the festival.

Where the cocktails are killer

333 King St. W., 416-599-6585
This inviting trattoria is an Entertainment District anomaly: it’s done up in warm brick rather than Firkin red velvet and pours $720 super­tuscans instead of $10 vodka martinis (though we also recommend bar manager Adam Bates’s cocktails). The restaurant’s candlelit recesses are popular with celebrities like Dakota Fanning and Jesse ­Eisenberg (who snacked on pizzas while in town filming Night Moves), plus Bruce Willis, Pierce Brosnan and Woody Harrelson, who once danced between tables until closing.

Where the room vibrates with sex appeal

480 King St. W., 416-367-0505
Patria is a faithful reproduction of an upscale Barcelona tapas bar, with its long list of Spanish wines, artisanal goat cheeses from La Mancha and heaping paelleras of seafood. Keira Knightley celebrated the screening of Can a Song Save Your Life? with black cherry cocktails at an outdoor booth, while co-star Adam Levine went the rock-star route, downing vodka shots. Jessicas Lange and Chastain as well as Sandra Bullock, Daniel Radcliffe, ­Elizabeth Olsen and Tom Felton have all been spotted here.

Where stars host parties

461 King St. W., 416-598-4730
When TIFF festivities are in full swing, Brassaii is a revolving door: it’s a popular venue for post-­premiere parties and the Hollywood Reporter holds all its interviews ­on-site. Last year’s drop-bys included Zac Efron and Paul Giamatti; in 2012, David Blaine performed magic tricks for Selena Gomez and Ashley ­Benson. The resto-lounge hosts stars during the rest of the year, too: ­Jessica ­Chastain held her 37th birthday party there. Bartender Aaron Male makes a killer caesar, which complements the restaurant’s seafood-heavy menu—although Viggo Mortensen is a fan of the bison burger.

Where a gossip column comes to life

Harbord Room
89 Harbord St., 416-962-8989
This secluded bistro, located midway between the Lightbox and the ­Yorkville scene, is one of the few ­restaurants to draw celebrities ­year-round—Sarah Gadon and David Cronenberg are regulars, and Jake Gyllenhaal dined with culture power couple Rufus Wainwright and Jorn Weisbrodt while he was filming in Toronto in 2012. During TIFF, it’s even more star-studded. At one festival shindig hosted by Kate Spade, Bryce Dallas Howard sipped pink champagne and snacked on chickpea fritters, Angus sliders and fresh oysters.

Where the beautiful people gather

97 Harbord St., Toronto, 647-748-7199
Cory Vitiello and Dave Mitton opened a spinoff restaurant three doors down from their celeb-favoured Harbord Room. It’s more polished and airy, with tall windows, wraparound tufted leather banquettes, and a marble bar where skinny guys and their pouting dates pose like extras in a Godard movie. Everything on the menu is designed for sharing, and the punchy ­cocktails are perfect for recouping after a long day of bingeing on flicks.

Where to party like a rock star

Drake Hotel
1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042
The Drake’s a bit far off TIFF’s King West epicentre, but it’s worth staking out, because the hotel always manages to throw at least one incredible party. Last year’s ­building-wide bash had a 1970s London theme, with mod costumes, Sid Vicious–inspired cocktails and, for the drunk and spontaneous, free tattoos in a pop-up parlour. Later in the fest, Taylor Kitsch stopped by to party, and Donald Sutherland was spied scarfing down the mammoth ­Lumberjack Breakfast.

Where the media mingle

Spoke Club
600 King St. W., 416-368-8448
For most of the year, the club is frequented by media types (including festival director Cameron Bailey, who often entertains visiting filmmakers there). But during TIFF, it morphs into a laid-back retreat where stars like Penélope Cruz, Bradley Cooper and Christina ­Hendricks go to cut loose. At the rooftop bar, Clive Owen once ordered a gin and lemon grass martini dyed red in honour of his beloved Liverpool FC—a spectacle bested only by Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson, who subjected amused onlookers to a breakdancing duel.

Where the wild things are

Cabana Pool Bar
11 Polson St., 416-479-7645
At Charles Khabouth’s sprawling, Vegas-style pool and bar at Polson Pier, celebs frequently occupy the VIP cabanas, where gauzy curtains frame the skyline and the minimum bar tab is $2,500. Drake and Justin Bieber have both stopped in (the latter nearly starting a fan riot when he put down his Belvedere and cranberry juice to pose for photos). The snacks—fish tacos, wraps and sushi platters—are nothing to write home about, but a nubile starlet in a ­bikini might well be.

Where to spend an epic night

11 Duncan St., 416-367-9000
The four-storey, 170-year-old converted warehouse on King West houses all manner of late-night ­shenanigans. On the second floor is Cocktail Parlour (think smoked mint juleps, chocolate sazaracs, five different spins on the old fashioned, and negronis on tap), where Jude Law, Emma Watson and Patricia Arquette have all been spotted. And on the ground level is Byblos, a brand-new Middleterranean restaurant that serves punch bowls brimming with a potent mix of spirits, pomegranate syrup and rosewater. Emma Stone is a fan.

Where to cool off

Chill Ice House
82 Bathurst St.
Set to open just in time for TIFF, Chill is a curiosity that’s sure to draw crowds. Guests are provided with a thermal cape and gloves before entering a refrigerated lounge (maintained at a brisk -5°C) where everything—glassware, tables, curtains, DJ booth and bar—is made of ice. Whisky ­cocktails are the thing to order.

Where to quietly escape

169 Niagara St., 416-703-4222
Hidden among King West’s condos, this perfect little place is a throwback to a time when a night out included the burble of Édith Piaf, the flattering glow of candlelight and a leisurely meal of rich and impeccably prepared dishes. Edulis has bona fide foodie cred (Martha Stewart live-tweeted her meal with photos, and former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl raved about a recent visit) and is a likely haven for visiting stars.