Truffles to close: Toronto’s grandfather of fine dining bites the dust after 37 years

Truffles to close: Toronto’s grandfather of fine dining bites the dust after 37 years

After nearly four decades of obsequious service and high-end dining, the Four Seasons’ restaurant Truffles announced that it will close on September 5—just before TIFF would have provided an influx of celebrities ready to savour its signature “black gold” truffle spaghettini. Staff will be partly absorbed by the Studio Café, but the new Four Seasons hotel, which is slated to open July 2012 at 60 Yorkville, will not resurrect the Truffles concept, signalling another mighty nail in the fine-dining coffin. A new direction at the hotel will respond to changing times and reflect the vision of Studio Café newcomers chef Claudio Rossi and pastry specialist Philip Vellagares.

Though the downturn certainly helped, the tables had turned for Truffles before the recession even kicked in. Not even 15 years of five-star ratings and countless star clients could save the institution from the tide of casual dining that has already pushed Splendido, Rain and Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner to frantic reinvention.

“People are changing, dining habits are changing,” says Four Seasons booster Alex Filiatrault of the Truffles closure. But don’t expect a Gardiner Café–style sandwich bar to replace this luxe institution. “I don’t think the Four Seasons has a casual environment,” says Filiatrault. “It’s still a luxury market.”

Rumours suggest that Truffles has been inconsistent on the food front, as well. The dining dynasty once saw the reign of such heavy-hitting chefs as Jonathan Gushue and Lynn Crawford (now at Langdon Hall and Four Seasons New York, respectively), but lately, some Chowhounders have questioned if chef Laurie Bandur has been letting standards slip a little. Toronto Life‘s food writers have found the opposite to be true, describing several praiseworthy meals from Bandur’s kitchen in recent months. The chef has also impressed someone at the Four Seasons: she is staying in the building, but moving to the Studio Café.

Ironically, the only thing Truffles needed to do to fill the house was close. Filiatrault says that the restaurant has been sold out every night since the announcement, full of regulars and last-ditch revellers slurping up a final taste of famed Truffles foie gras. Though the Truffles team and its clientele are nostalgic about the change, Filiatrault says the tone is celebratory. “It’s time for us to move on.”