What’s on the menu at the Library Bar, the Royal York’s newly renovated cocktail lounge

What’s on the menu at the Library Bar, the Royal York’s newly renovated cocktail lounge

More New Restaurants

Name: The Library Bar
Contact: Lobby Level, Fairmont Royal York, 100 Front St. W., librarybartoronto.com, @librarybartoronto
Neighbourhood: Financial District
Owners: Fairmont Royal York (KingSett Capital)
Chef: JW Foster
Seating: 80
Accessibility: Fully accessible

The food

Library Bar reopened to the public on Nov. 4 after a year-long renovation that transformed the storied martini den into a maximalist Art Deco showpiece. Elegant takes on nostalgic classics harken back to this spot’s nearly 50-year history. Canadian Pacific Hotels, owned by the railway and built alongside it, is the Fairmont brand’s great-grandparent. Order the chowder and fancy yourself a turn-of-the-century train traveller, warming up after a long journey—the comforting dish was served to weary voyagers at every railway hotel of olde. Or take the Bay Street, a prime rib beef dip sandwich that’s been a staple since the bar opened its doors in 1972. Back then, the roast was carved tableside on a formal trolley (which has gone the way of Watergate salad). Cocktail bites like oysters Rockefeller and a few eye-catching desserts round out the menu.

Foie gras and cognac paté served simply with charred sourdough and local Bosc pears, which are torched following a bath in cider and honey harvested from the Fairmont’s own rooftop beehive. It’s garnished with pea shoots and chives for a hint of green. $24.
A rotating selection of seasonal mushrooms—in this case, hen of the woods, oyster, and cremini—is paired with rich scamorza cheese, caramelized onions and truffle butter, because mushrooms and fat are culinary soulmates. The mix is accented by rosemary, served on charred sourdough, and garnished with house-grown pea shoots, frisée, parsley and chervil. $24.


The lunch menu features five open-faced sandwiches—select a trio for $28. Here (left to right) we have the dijon- and tarragon-spiked striploin tartare; Fogo Island shrimp with watermelon radish, dill mayo, and pickled serranos; and lastly, sea salt fingerling potatoes with hearts of palm, and double-smoked bacon.


No nostalgia-fuelled bar menu is complete without steak frites—known here as Steak Locke, after the room’s presiding librarian. House dry-aged Ontario striploin, served pre-sliced, is accompanied by a head of roasted garlic, natural jus, tarragon-rich béarnaise sauce, and absolutely perfect double-cooked fries. As luxurious as the velvet armchair you’ll enjoy it in. $46.


Chef Foster thought up the concept for Storytime while eating s’mores on a camping trip. When the dessert arrives, the server will lift the bell jar to release a plume of campfire-redolent maple wood smoke; underneath, a “flame” of torched meringue filled with smoked chocolate ganache and cassis sits atop graham cracker “logs” and puffed wild rice “ashes.” On the right we have the After Dinner Whoopie, whoopie pies made with dark chocolate sponge and mint creme that call back to after dinner mints. $16 for each dessert.


A whole spread.


Chef Foster.
The drinks

Director of beverage Rus Yessenov organized the cocktail card around literary genres: romance for easy-drinking aperitifs, mystery for enticing curiosities, and fantasy for potions that, partly due to the alcohol content, help facilitate respites from reality. Library Bar’s signature drink, the Birdbath Martini, is mixed tableside and features bespoke vodka or gin distilled for exclusive use in that cocktail (in case there was any doubt about how seriously this place takes its booze). The tight wine program centres on small, sustainable producers; and for beer drinkers, there are a few Bellwoods brews on offer alongside Heineken and Duvel Belgian golden ale.

The original Birdbath Martini at the Royal York Hotel's Library Bar
The Birdbath Martini is made with your choice of QUILL vodka or gin. Both are 50/50 Niagara grape/rye distillates with a few distinguishing features: a sturdy 50 per cent ABV, for one thing, and silky texture designed for martinis par excellence. Besides the usual aromatics, the gin is made with pink peppercorn, lemongrass, and aniseed for a long finish. Finished with Noilly Prat vermouth and house orange bitters, the drink is poured tableside and served in a frozen martini glass with a lemon coin. On the side: two kinds of olives and house-pickled red pearl onions. $28. Photo by Ebti Nabag


Director of Beverage Rus Yessenov grating nutmeg on the Amore Amaro.


The citrusy, lightly spicy Amore Amaro (Latin for bitter love) is a blend of Herradura Reposado Tequila, armagnac, apricot, and amaro with a touch of jalapeño, lemon, and grated nutmeg. From the romance section, naturally. $22.


Yessenov describes the light, effervescent Twist of Fate as a “white negroni on steroids.” Hendrick’s gin infused with raspberries, Lillet Blanc, Galliano liqueur, and prosecco rosé are balanced with verjus. It’s from the romance section of the menu—in case the rosy hue and baby’s breath garnish didn’t give it away. $20.


A twist on a whiskey sour, the Once Upon a Time (aptly named for its fantasy section designation) mixes house-made cinnamon chamomile syrup with yellow chartreuse and pineapple juice—bold flavours meant to set off a base of spicy Lot 40 whiskey. A dusting of raspberry powder tops it off. $24.


In the cozy Bookmarked, Macallan 12 year double cask scotch—creamy, fruity, and lightly spicy—does all the talking. It’s underlined by sweet vermouth, Palo Cortado sherry, Grand Marnier and bitters. $22.
The space

Think minimalism…then picture the opposite of that. Jewel-toned velvet upholstery lines plush armchairs and sofas, chandeliers hang from coffered ceilings, and fringed lampshades call back to early Toronto’s jazzier days. The tables are made of semi-translucent onyx marble, and dramatic paintings of flora and fauna line the walls. Above the mantelpiece, there’s a commissioned oil painting of George Locke. A prominent turn of the century librarian and literacy advocate, he hand-picked the books for the Fairmont’s library when it opened in 1929. (And judging by the painting, had impeccable hat game).