That smell. My, isn’t it wonderful? Warm and yeasty like a Dutchman’s front pocket. It’s a smell that has fuelled nations, built pyramids, and gotten Julius Caesar out of bed! Do you smell it? Unblocking your nose might help; I know hay fever has been killer this year. Smell it now? C’mon, try harder!
That’s the smell of fresh bread—the first thing that greets you upon entering Le Toledo, which I guess didn’t directly fuel nations and pamper emperors, but still, it can pamper me.
Le Toledo is a bakery-café down Mont Royal—an absolutely fantastic street. It’s smack dab in the middle of the Plateau and it is the older brother to Saint Laurent. Of course, you can still find the same hustling locals and swaying hippies, still, you know, swaying. But the street is just slightly quieter and more composed. The restaurants and stores are that bit more polished. You also find fewer tourists than Saint Laurent and certainly not the hordes flocking to St. Catherine.
Inside, the room feels grand and stately, with sumptuous-looking chairs—but it isn’t intimidating. You don’t feel underdressed or like you’re in the wrong place. And while it’s a bakery first and a café second, there’s a casual, rather pleasant buzz of people working and friends gossiping.
It’s French by influence, which brings any nostalgic Parisian to an almost instant climax. Indeed, the variety behind the counter is seemingly endless: Small loafs, large loafs, crusty loafs, long loafs, baguettes, of course, pretty pastries, and tarts, too. It’s all there and quite something. Most of the servers also speak Parisian French, not Quebecois French, which is the cherry on the cake for the Parisians. How did I notice this? Well, I didn’t, of course. My Parisian pals pointed it out while I was plucking up the courage to order.
Now is probably a good time to mention I can’t speak French. Aside from ‘bonjour’ and ‘au revoir’, my French is somewhat limited to speaking English in a French accent. And not by choice—it’s just not my bread and butter. Anyone who knows me can confirm this. But for legal reasons now, I have to try to speak French. And unfortunately, servers are somewhat shy about stepping in as my surrogate French teacher. Here was no different. It went, well, as you’d expect—my wide array of vocabulary combined with my traditional rustic French accent was so compelling, the server replied to me in English.
Despite this, I did manage to get my order taken: I bought the patriarche and a slice of the tomato and blue cheese focaccia bread.
I’ve come to love the patriarche. It’s slightly wider than regular baguettes and it has a wonderful gritty texture—truly, the upper crust of the crumby world. You only need one slice in the morning with your eggs and it’s also very tasty with butter. Incidentally, Toledo’s patriarche is as brilliant as a French kiss on acid.
The focaccia bread wasn’t too shabby either. Light as a libertarian’s touch and cheesy as a frat boy’s pick-up line. They do a few different types of focaccia every day, usually including a vegetarian option too.
I also got a croissant and a black Americano too, for good measure. The coffee was freshly ground and not too bitter. My only disagreement was with the croissant. It was like having a conversation with someone who majors in business—a bit bland.
The bill came to a pretty reasonable total. The patriarche was $7 and the rest was priced like any other café—around three or four bucks for espresso-based drinks and five for the focaccia, which can serve nicely as a light lunch.
Altogether, Le Toledo? Rather good. Perfect for bringing dates and friends, and even better for buying your weekly loaf. Don’t bother with the croissants, though—leave those for the lost American tourists.
Le Toledo, 351 Mont-Royal Avenue
(35-minute walk from McGill’s downtown campus)
Read more of Harry North’s restaurant reviews on Instagram: @roasting_reviews