A few weeks back my office had a retreat over to Ward Island, part of the Toronto Islands. After a busy and stressful month, it was good for us to get out, reconnect and relax a little. There were 5 of us (Sarah, Naeem, Kate, Kelci) with Kat unfortunately not attending due to sickness.
The short ferry ride from the mainland over is fun and relaxing journey, especially with the initially gorgeous weather we had (sunshine turned to rain by the afternoon).
Ward's Island isn't actually a separate island, but an extension of Centre Island. Most of it seemed to be residential with a few parks and beach. Very peaceful. Well, except for the constant take-off and arrival of aircraft from the Billy Bishop Airport.
We went for lunch at The Rectory Cafe. Go HERE to read about how this is one of the few original homes that survived a purge in the 60's.
We sat on the back patio, which felt like an enchanted garden. We were the first one's on the patio, and we thoroughly enjoyed the lush green and fresh air. The seating is extensive (clearly they know people are coming to enjoy the outdoors).
We started off with a few appetizers. We had the Char Grilled Calamari ($7 for one, $13 for share) "marinated in a fifteen spice rub and served with a scallion thyme aioli and lemon olive oil." Calamari is a difficult dish to execute in my opinion because it can become very tough. Fortunately this squid was very tender. The many layers of flavours came out, from the 15 spices to the rich aioli as well as the nice grill accent.
We also had the Sun Blushed Tomato Hummus ($10). "Accompanied by Kalamata olives and roasted flatbread." I'm not crazy about hummus (I like it, just not crazy about it) but this was very good. I love the addition of the sun dried tomatoes. The dish was an experience onto itself.
Then on to the main courses. Kelci went with the Tofu Tikha Panini ($12): "Stewed with Indian spices, tomato and almonds then topped with a cucumber mint yogurt." I've never seen this before, but it looked tasty. And Kelci said it was.
Kate, our office vegetarian, made our waiter choose for her between the Tofu paninni and the Moroccan Chickpeas. He said both were good, but that the Chickpease were more filling. So she went with the Chickpeas ($16). "Done with wilted spinach, red onions and Yukon potatoes with smoked paprika and mango salsa." Kate said it was really good and it was quite filling (it's hard to see that the portion is quite large).
Sarah, Naeem and I all went for the same thing: The Ontario Chipotle Bison Burger ($14). "Smoked mozzarella, lettuce and tomato with zucchini relish on a ciabatta bun with garlic aioli." It was a tough choice, with both the Philly Cheese Steak Panini and the Pulled Pork Panini as options, but I love Bison burger and how often do you see it on the menu? On the side was a simple salad with oil and balsamic dressing.
This was a beautiful craft burger (as opposed to your regular burger burger). I mean it kind of looks like a piece of art with the colours and the deliciousness.
Above is the breakdown of the burger. Things to note: The bun was soft and chewy. The aioli was light in application but still present. The mozzarella had a wonderful smokey flavour that really accented the bison. Bison is a super lean meat, but has a nice earthy-meaty flavour. It was just shy of being dry, but it was good. The chipotle was mild but added for a great spice mixture to the meat.
I asked our waiter where the Bison actually came from, and he said Ontario. I'm still curious where in Ontario.
Then we had dessert. Clockwise starting in the top right was my New York Style Cheesecake ($7) -awesome by the way. Sarah went with the Callebaut Semi-Sweet Brownie ($7). Kelci had the Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Torte ($7) and finally Kate and Naeem had the Toffee Blondie ($7). All were heaven.
There was also an extensive list of unique and exotic teas. I don't drink warm beverages so I didn't have any, but my crew did, and they seemed to enjoy their selections.
The Rectory Cafe served a delicious meal in a very relaxing setting. The service was friendly but not intrusive, and the company was great. It was just what we needed. Afterwards we played on some crazy geodisic/spider web climbing equipment, walked along the beach, and toured through the cottagey lanes of the island. It was a great day, what else can I say?
Oh, yes there is: thank you Sarah (awesome boss)!
The Rectory Cafe
102 Lakeshore Ave, Ward's Island, Toronto ON