What’s on the menu at Café BluBlu, an adorable French bistro on the outskirts of Kensington Market

What’s on the menu at Café BluBlu, an adorable French bistro on the outskirts of Kensington Market

Including a surprising early fan favourite: cod tongues

A chef spoons sauce over a dish of duck confit

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Name: Café BluBlu
Contact: 374 Bathurst St., cafeblublu.com, @cafeblublu
Neighbourhood: Kensington Market
Previously: Good Hombres
Owner: Skyler Ma
Chefs: Skyler Ma, Arvin Ablang and Akane Hagiwara
Accessibility: Fully accessible

This new spot at Bathurst and Dundas (which is named for the sound that gurgling bubbles make underwater) is a café by day, French wine bar by night and brunch spot on weekends. Its adorable logo—a chicken-fish hybrid—was born out of a creative brainstorming session over drinks one night. (Logo designs that didn’t make it are hung on the walls in the dining space, so guests can see what could have been.)

The team at Café BluBlu, a French bistro in Toronto
From left: front-of-house manager Liam Anderson, café manager Echo Hu, chef Skyler Ma, chef Arvin Ablang and chef Akane Hagiwara

The BluBlu team works intentionally to create the feeling of being at a friend’s house for dinner. And the place is a real family effort—the handmade menus are stitched together with canvas cloth, the space is filled with knick-knacks brought back from the team’s trips to vintage markets, and the menu is the result of close collaboration. Sometimes chef Arvin Ablang creates a cocktail for the front-of-house crew or the café team comes up with a new dessert recipe for the kitchen.

Related: Six of the city’s best new bistros and brasseries

A spread of French dishes at Café BluBlu in Toronto

The food

The daytime menu is a compilation of tried-and-true sandwich combos, freshly baked pastries and, on weekends, brunch. When the sun sets, there’s a selection of satisfying French-inspired dishes (read: lots of butter and meat). Guests can choose to do things family-style with sharing plates or just enjoy snacky bites—warm olives, brown butter fries, house-made milk buns—with a bottle of wine.

For something a little more traditional, the current prix fixe menu includes a choice of appetizer (steak tartare or scallop gratin), a main (duck confit or beef cheek) and dessert (crème brûlée or house-made ice cream). Other notable plates include the oxtail French onion soup and cod tongue, a Newfoundland staple that has quickly become a fan favourite at BluBlu.

A display case of croissants, cookies and other baked goods
All of the pastries are made in-house. The day-old croissants are made into bread pudding, so nothing goes to waste


Milk buns and St. Brigid's Dairy butter
The milk bread is made fresh every day and served with a quenelle of very good St. Brigid’s butter. $9


Roasted beets served with an aïoli and topped with guanciale
Tender Cookstown beets are served with aioli and topped with crumbles of guanciale. $15


A plate of mushroom-truffle risotto
The truffle risotto is an earthy dish with a trio of mushrooms, parmesan and a sprinkle of truffle shavings on top. $18


A plate of cod tongues
The cod tongue has quickly become a staple dish. It’s not actually tongue but a muscle from the cod’s mouth that has the consistency of clam. Here, they’re served with aioli, butter, herbs and some key lime for acidity. $16


Duck confit, roasted potatoes and pickled red cabbage
Duck confit is served with sliced potatoes that are soaked in an oniony, garlicky beef stock before being roasted. On the side: some pickled red cabbage for a balanced plate. $28


The braised beef cheek is marinated for a whole day with red wine and vegetables. Then it’s pan-seared, served on a bed of Gruyère mashed potatoes and topped with a red wine jus. On the side: seasonal veggies. $25


A chef's mise en place

An industrial stove in the kitchen of a Toronto restaurant

A cup of custard-based ice cream
This yam pumpkin seed ice cream—sprinkled with black and white sesame seeds for crunch—tastes just like Thanksgiving. The custard-based ice cream is rotational, and like most other things at Blublu, it’s made in house. $6


The drinks

During the day, coffee-based drinks include specials like the Applecano (think apple cider meets a steamed Americano) and a spicy hot chocolate made with scotch bonnet–infused ganache. The heart of the bar menu (which also lists some beer and a few cocktails) is a selection of mostly natural wine, each bottle chosen specifically to pair with the food.

Two fridges stocked with wine and beer at Cafe BluBlu in Toronto

The space

An arched hallway leads from the sunny café to a moodier, laid-back dining room. Hanging from its high ceiling are pages from vintage magazines. There’s also a bar, a stack of vintage TVs and a projector playing Chinese cartoons from the ’80s on a loop. The rest of the space is in keeping with the themes of teamwork and DIY: chef and owner Skyler Ma built the tables, the vintage chairs were purchased from “the back of a guy’s car,” and a lot of the dishware was sourced on group field trips to markets.

The counter at Café BluBlu, a French bistro outside of Kensington Market in Toronto

The menu board at Café BluBlu, a French bistro in Toronto

A team member at Toronto's Cafe BluBlu pulls a shot of espresso

A small figurine sits next to a tiny bonsai tree

Looking down a hallway into the dining room of Café BluBlu in Toronto

The dining room at Cafe BluBlu in Toronto

The sign outside of Café BluBlu, a Toronto restaurant