What’s on the menu at Lucie, the Financial District’s new spot for fancy French food

What’s on the menu at Lucie, the Financial District’s new spot for fancy French food

It’s the kind of place that has a champagne cart

A plate of Nova Scotia lobster, confit duck fat potatoes and lobster claw tartare
Photo by Joshua Best

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Name: Lucie
Contact: 100 Yonge St, 416-788-9054, restaurantlucie.com, @restaurantlucie
Neighbourhood: Financial District
Owner: Yannick Bigourdan
Chefs: Arnaud Bloquel, Zachary Barnes, Julie Guenat and Laurence Delmas Farré
Accessibility: Fully accessible
 
After opening around a dozen restaurants over the past two decades, Yannick Bigourdan was ready to get back into the fine-dining game. Some of his recent restaurants—the Carbon Bar, Amano Trattoria—focus on casual fare, but Lucie is Bigourdan’s first high-end venture since he sold Splendido in 2009. It’s also his first French restaurant—which may come as a surprise considering that Bigourdan grew up in southern France.

“I never really wanted to do French because, to be honest, I think I always had the feeling that I had escaped France,” says Bigourdan, who moved to Canada in 1998. “But I always go to French restaurants because I love them, and now that I’m about to turn 50, I guess I’m more inclined to go back to my roots.”

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

The exterior of Lucie, a new French restaurant in Toronto's Financial District

Lucie is named after Bigourdan’s grandmother, with whom he had a close relationship when he was a child. Although the restaurant’s connection to Bigourdan’s heritage carries a sense of nostalgia, the menu is distinctly modern. “I’m passionate about modern French food,” he says. “I wanted to do something that wasn’t your expected bistro with duck confit.”

The restaurant’s menu pushes boundaries, but the inviting ambiance carries the warmth of Bigourdan’s personal passion for the project. “Fine dining is in my DNA—this is what I love,” he says. “I think it’s what I do best.”

Arnaud Bloquel and Yannick Bigourdan at Lucie's bar
Arnaud Bloquel (left) and Yannick Bigourdan
The food

Bigourdan’s vision was for Lucie to represent “the cooking that’s happening in Paris right now.” In order to achieve this, he went straight to the source, recruiting a number of the restaurant’s chefs directly from France. There are seven French nationals working behind the pass at Lucie, led by executive chef Arnaud Bloquel, who trained with Michelin-recognized chef Christian Constant and also made it to the semi-finals of last year’s Meilleur Ouvrier de France competition.

Lucie’s current dinner menu is a three-course prix fixe, with a choice of appetizer, main and dessert ($130 per person). Lunch, which will launch in mid-August, will offer à la carte options.

Foie gras with Ontario sour cherry gelée and a tuile bread garnish
Bloquel kicks classic foie gras up a notch with the addition of smoked eel and cherry leather (think of it as a grown-up Fruit Roll-Up). Velvety rounds of Hudson Valley foie gras are surrounded by drops of Ontario sour cherry gelée and finished with a tuile bread garnish

 

Beef tartare with oysters, capers, mustard, cornichons and Oscietra caviar
This grass-fed beef tartare gets its je ne sais quoi from oysters, which are mixed in with the standard capers, mustard and cornichons. Osetra caviar is piled on top, and it’s finished with a savoury sauce made from oysters, cream and parsley oil Photo by Joshua Best

 

A rack of rabbit alongside a crispy rabbit croquette and rabbit- and spinach-stuffed ballotines
Bloquel uses all parts of the rabbit in this dish, presenting a tiny rack of rabbit alongside a crispy rabbit croquette. Both the ballotine and the spinach leaves are stuffed with rabbit confit and pistachio. It’s all bathed in a grainy mustard sauce

 

A plate of Nova Scotia lobster, confit duck fat potatoes and lobster claw tartare
Juicy chunks of poached Nova Scotia lobster are alternated on the plate with confit duck fat potatoes and mounds of lobster claw tartare. The delicious circle is topped with thin rounds of Comté cheese and doused in a lobster reduction spiked with Arabica coffee Photo by Joshua Best

 

This elegant meringue tower enrobes a filling of tarragon cream and raspberry confit. A dollop of tarragon sorbet and a bundle of raspberry leather are arranged on top
This elegant meringue tower enrobes a filling of tarragon cream and raspberry confit. A dollop of tarragon sorbet and a bundle of raspberry leather are arranged on top

 

A lemon square is layered with vanilla lemon confit and white chocolate, then crowned with mint sorbet
Here, a lemon square is layered with vanilla lemon confit and white chocolate, then crowned with mint sorbet.
The drinks

This is the kind of place with a champagne trolley, which is stocked with three rotating feature sparkling wines. It’s rolled up to every newly seated table as an invitation for diners to start their evening with a glass of bubbly.

Unsurprisingly, the wine list is about 75 per cent French, covering a mix of smaller producers and staple standbys. It spans a little over 100 labels, but Bigourdan hopes to expand that to over 400 in the coming months. Cocktails riff on the classics by incorporating French tipples like chartreuse and Armagnac. “We try to give them a French touch and create interesting flavours using traditional French ingredients,” Bigourdan says.

A rolling Champagne cart at Lucie
This rolling Champagne cart is currently stocked with Luc Belaire Rare Sparkling Rosé, Mumm Napa Brut Prestige and Perrier Jouet Grand Brut

 

The Unusual Negroni uses orange curaçao and Lillet Blanc in place of the usual vermouth, along with the standard gin and Campari combo. It’s served with an ice cube stamped with the restaurant’s name

 

Lucie’s spin on a Kir Royale, the Lucie Royale, is made with fresh raspberries, Mumm Napa Brut, gin, Aperol, St-Germain and cassis
Lucie’s spin on a Kir Royale, the Lucie Royale, is made with fresh raspberries, Mumm Napa Brut, gin, Aperol, St-Germain and cassis

 

The refreshing Ti’ Punch is made with rum, Cointreau, cold-pressed pineapple juice and lime juice
The refreshing Ti’ Punch is made with rum, Cointreau, cold-pressed pineapple juice and lime juice. Bloquel hopes to eventually produce a rhum agricole in partnership with Rhum Longueteau
The space

Rich burgundy and royal-blue tones give the 70-seat dining room an elegant feel while exposed concrete pillars add a contemporary, industrial element. “We’re pushing the envelope on the food, but I wanted to have a dining room that was warm, not intimidating,” says Bigourdan.

Bigourdan sees the 20-seat marble bar as the heart of the restaurant. “When my wife and I go to a restaurant, we always sit at the bar,” he says. “I just love the dynamic—you’re a little bit higher, you see more of what’s going on, and there’s always somebody in front of you to converse with.”

References to famous French figures are peppered throughout the artwork on the walls. Bigourdan wanted to display pieces that would look visually interesting for the average diner while also serving as playful Easter eggs for the restaurant’s French customers. “We want to put the French culture out there but without being pompous—or too French,” he says.

A corner booth at Lucie with a view of the wine cellar
Lucie’s interior was curated by CHIL Interior Design, the hospitality and residential arm of B+H Architects

 

Lucie's marble bar seats 20 diners
The marble bar seats 20 guests

 

Lucie's dining room, with a chain-link art piece inspired by a 1970s French gangster movie
This chain-link art piece depicts French actors Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon in the 1970s French gangster movie Borsalino

 

A closer look at Lucie's chain-link art installation
Here’s a closer look at the art installation. “We wanted to add a few subtle elements that would incorporate French culture without putting it right out there,” says Bigourdan, noting that francophiles will recognize these well-known actors

 

Another view of Lucie's dining room, this time with a painting of French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg by Canadian artist Daniel Mazzone
Beloved French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg is portrayed in this painting by Canadian artist Daniel Mazzone

 

A photo of Yannick Bigourdan's grandmother Lucie
This photo of Bigourdan’s grandmother, Lucie—the inspiration for the restaurant’s name—was taken in 1945