Restaurant Review: The Fall Bright Tavern – Shining Bright or Just a Flicker?

RestaurantThe Fall Bright Tavern
Address840 Bloor Street West
Dinner for two with drinks and wine$200

In a city as diverse and sprawling as Toronto, discovering a restaurant that captures the essence of a neighbourhood eatery while delivering the finesse of a top-tier dining experience can be as elusive as the perfect soufflé. When I first heard about The Fall Bright Tavern, I was intrigued by its promise of balancing these elements with seemingly effortless grace. On a busy stretch of Bloor Street, this newly crowned gem on Toronto Life’s best new restaurants of 2024 list seemed poised to offer an exceptional dining experience.

Joe Rutherford and Brett Healey, the minds behind this venture, bring decades of culinary passion and camaraderie to their creation. Their journey from a wine bar in London, Ontario, through years of food and wine adventures in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Toronto, is a narrative steeped in shared dreams and relentless dedication.

There are no ostentatious decorations or pretentious flourishes in the cozy dining area—just a simple room suffused with candlelight, exposed brick, and wood finishes that invite you to relax and relish your meal. Mirrors replace artwork on the walls, fostering a convivial atmosphere where the focus remains on the food and the company you keep. In warmer months, a cozy patio at the back offers an inviting view of Irene Avenue Parkette, perfect for al fresco dining.

Healey’s culinary philosophy is all about transforming simple, honest fare into nourishing, farmhouse-style meals. However, the food, while utilizing seasonal ingredients, lacks the inventive flair necessary to justify the steep price points. The Bà Nội Sourdough Bread ($7), a staple at many tables, arrives somewhat underwhelmingly. Though the crust and homemade butter is decent, the bread lacks the deep, satisfying tang of a well-fermented sourdough. It feels like an afterthought rather than a signature starter.

The Ontario Peas Chilled Ginger Pea Custard ($24), a recommendation from our server, has the potential to shine but also falls flat. The custard’s texture is pleasant enough, but the flavour is muted, lacking the vibrant snap expected from fresh peas. The ginger was barely discernible, making the dish more forgettable than fabulous.

As for the main course, the Charcoal Grilled Red Snapper ($38), accompanied by garlicky green beans and hollandaise, is overpowered by the sauce. The snapper, meant to be the star, is instead a bland player in a too-rich ensemble. The green beans, while perfectly cooked, couldn’t salvage the dish from its heavy-handed execution and there are far too many, making the plate unbalanced.

For those with a penchant for the rich and decadent, the Fried Pork Shoulder in Honey Butter Hot Sauce ($35) is a sublime indulgence. The pork, tender to the point of perfection, effortlessly melts in the mouth, while the honey butter hot sauce introduces a nuanced sweetness that elegantly complements the meat’s savoury depth. This dish, plated on a thick slice of freshly baked bread with a side of quick pickle field cucumbers, provides a refreshing crunch that skillfully balances the rich flavours of the pork. This thoughtfully composed plate highlights the chef’s adeptness in creating a harmonious and gratifying culinary experience, demonstrating a remarkable level of precision while still making the dish approachable for neighbourhood patronage.

The beverage menu leans toward the classics with personal touches. The Vesper, with preserved lemon, or the Vieux Carré, enhanced with black tea, are standouts. For those who prefer non-alcoholic options, the zero-proof wild and ginger spruce soda, made in-house, is a refreshing choice. The wine menu, with its limited wines by the glass, highlights the Old World, featuring a big bold Chianti from Italy and a French Chablis.

While there were bright spots in my experience at The Fall Bright Tavern, my overall experience was marred by an unfortunate sense of being rushed through our meal, despite the restaurant not being busy. This sense of haste was evident as we were asked to pay the bill multiple times, leaving us feeling less than welcome and overshadowing what could have been a pleasant evening.

In the end, The Fall Bright Tavern fell short of its lofty aspirations. The promise of a neighbourhood gem with elevated comfort food was overshadowed by lacklustre dishes and hasty service. It’s a place that, despite its potential, needs to rethink its approach if it hopes to shine in Toronto’s competitive dining scene.


Mme. M.


La rubrique de Madame Marie

1 étoile – Run. Before you get the runs.
 étoiles – Mediocre, but nothing you couldn’t make at home.
 étoiles – C’est bon, with some standout qualities.
 étoiles – Many memorable qualities and excellent execution. Compliments to the chef.
 étoiles – Formidable! Michelin Star quality. Book a reservation immediately.