Address: 123 Princess St
From the first step down the flight of stairs that leads to Clementine’s subterranean Exchange District space, an excitement begins to take hold. Over the buzz of chatter from filled tables, anticipation sets in. A look at the menu reveals something conspicuously absent from the city’s dining scene, until now.
Breakfast fine dining has oft been interpreted as home cooking classics delivered on fancy china. Following the lead of chef-owned hotspots pushing boundaries, Clementine reimagines breakfast with inventive flavour combinations, melding thoughtfulness and creativity with accessibility and casualness in price and atmosphere.
The venture of Segovia progenitors Adam Donnelly and Carolina Konrad burst onto the dining scene in May, and was immediately swarmed with downtown lunchers and cool kid brunch-ers eager for morning cocktails (“Drink This, It’ll Help”, offers the menu) and Segovia’s culinary daring adapted for morning fare.
Comfort food has become the buzz word du jour, and while the plenty of familiar plates are offered, care is taken to elevate approachable breakfast classics with far flung ingredients. Airy, deep-pocketed Belgian waffles are hidden under pear compote, salted dulce de leche, and whipped labneh. Turkish-style poached eggs are delivered on a bed of hummus, topped with warm chile oil and zhoug, a pesto-like Middle Eastern spice paste singing with cilantro and long-burning spice.
Aligned with what’s on the plate, the underground nook’s interior seamlessly blends cozy and kooky elements. The hallmarks of industrial-chic Exchange District hip—rough-hewn wood rafters and ductwork, exposed brick—are complemented by pattern adorned walls and black and white chevron floor tiles.
Through a grid of window panes into the open kitchen, diners get an up close look at head chefs Adam Donnelly and Chris Gama leading what seems like a full brigade, frying, chopping, saucing and simmering marvelous creations. Instant signatures like eggs benedict topped with thick cut maple bacon and glossy hollandaise, or the instagram darling fried chicken toast, which piles juicy crisp chicken on a thick wedge of housemade sourdough.
Lunch cravings are answered with curry-spiked mushroom toast and spicy chorizo tostadas. Smoked Arctic char is destined to become a go-to for nearby office dwellers. A slab of the mild, flaky fish perches atop batons of crisp-fried potato cakes, with dollops of creme fraiche, horseradish, and pearly salmon roe lending bite and pop. Ringing in at a mere $13, this is the most expensive item on the menu.
A range of side dishes, all priced in the single digits, make for a light breaky or a sharable addition to an indulgent brunch. Meaty fried beets tossed with cashews and a smear of jewel-yellow curry aioli begs the question: why is this favourite root veggie ever prepared any other way? Crisp wedges of cucumber pair with a nutty tahini sauce and a swirl of salty-sweet tomato caramel for acidity. In dish after dish it is clear that at Clementine, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.