Le Papillon on the Park, Toronto

After 34 years of faithful service to Toronto’s Francophile dining community, the original owners of Le Papillon have gone their separate ways. Sandra Kane was the first to re-emerge, opening up Le Papillon on Front in 2008. Some unfamiliar with the split undoubtedly thought that this was just the new location for Le Papillon — after all, it had moved many times before — but this isn’t the only vestige of the Papillon name. After a long and gruelling construction period, Le Papillon on the Park has finally arrived. Just be prepared to search for it.

Located in a converted, easy-to-miss 90 year old brick house on Eastern Avenue, Le Papillon on the Park has much more of a “destination” feel than its heavily-trafficked downtown namesake. Conveniently located right next to Jonathan Ashbridge Park across the street, which is itself being renovated to become “the High Park of the East End,” the restaurant feels miles away from Toronto. In fact, both inside and out, it has all the attributes of an Old Montreal bistro — romance, charm, and warmth.

There’s a reason for that. Owners Paul and Danielle Bigué originally hail from Montreal, and now that they’re no longer running a restaurant with their Anglophone partner they’ve dialed up the Quebecois influence. Le Papillon was always known for its homey French cuisine, but now there’s a distinct French Canadian flavour. Many of the standard French dishes remain — there’s still a whole list of crepes, for instance — but Danielle has also spent time researching family recipes and has integrated them seamlessly. If there’s anywhere else in Toronto to get an authentic Quebecois sugar pie, I don’t know about it.

“Have you noticed all of the poutine shops opening all over the city?” asks Stéphane Bigué, who runs the restaurant with his parents. “That’s because people are starting to realize how good Quebecois food is,” answers Danielle. That may be the case, but most of the Montreal-style cuisine that has made its way to Toronto skews towards the lower-end (we remind you that Caplansky’s is Toronto’s most popular new spot).

Le Papillon serves comfort food (in fact, there is a veal demi-glace version of poutine on the menu), but it’s no greasy spoon. The auspicious dining room is large, airy, and seats 120. Since the demand was always high at the old Papillon for seats near the wood-burning fireplace and French doors, the new space is all fireplace and French doors. Upstairs, a 90-seat heated patio provides a perfect summer perch, overlooking ample greenery and radiating atmosphere. A second-floor hallway will eventually serve as a mini art gallery, showcasing local artists and allowing them a place to sell their works.

Despite the size of the restaurant, the food provides a mixture of homestyle cooking and fine French dining. The winter version of the seasonal menu is heavy on meat and potatoes, with dishes like Steak Frites, Magret de Canard (grilled boneless duck breast with Grand Marnier sauce), and a creation called Ragout de Pattes à Grand-Mere, which contains pig trotters and meatballs. There are also a few seafood selections like Gratin de Fruits de Mer (Scallops, Tiger Shrimps, and Mushrooms broiled in a white wine cream sauce), while an international wine list complements the food, and Robert Simpson Ale provides a local draught beer accompaniment. It may be well off the beaten path, but Le Papillon on the Park is well worth seeking out.

Address: 1001 Eastern Ave, Toronto, ON
Contact: 416-649-1001
Cuisine: French
Area: East End
Venue: Restaraunt
Hours: Tue.: 5:00pm – 11:00pm
Wed. to Fri.: 11:00am – 2:30pm
5:00pm – 11:00pm
Sat. and Sun.: 11:00am – 11:00pm
Price Range: $$$ (Within Reach)
Payment: Master Card, Visa, American Express

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