When you’re born and raised within a culture that greets each other with “Have you eaten yet?” it’s no surprise that the restaurant life is strong. That paired with my grandparents owning a small restaurant on College Street that we lived above for my early days, probably helped form my appreciation for food and the business of.
I admit that my family enjoys eating out as much as we love cooking. Yes, we love both. Personally, dining in a restaurant gives me inspiration. I admire the attention to details that I don’t think I have the patience for. I admire the drive of chefs and restaurant owners to offer the best dining experience possible. But when I was asked for my top 3 restaurants anywhere in the world it proved to be more difficult decision that I first thought!
For me, it’s not just about the food, it’s about the experience. So, my top three most unforgettable dining experiences are these…
Chevre d’Or at Eze, France:
When we first arrived at Eze, we realized there was no other way to go up the mountain village other than by foot. We were staying at the top in a small hotel. The entire village of Eze was formerly the summer home of the King of Spain. It was also a place that Walt Disney stayed and found inspiration for one of his movies. We stumbled upon Chevre d’Or, a 2 Michelin Star restaurant, looking for a late lunch. The host guided us through the open patio with a sweeping view of the Mediterranean Sea. It was a piece of heaven. We’ve never been ones to feel out of place even though the diners seated around us were dressed in beautiful linens. Luckily for us, we’ve master the look of worldly travellers. I was in my go-to polo dress, ballet flats and carrying our necessities in an old Longchamp tote and hubby in an easy button down shirt with presentable shorts. The staff was caring and thoughtful even though we were probably the youngest in the restaurant. The meal was as epic as every aspect of the restaurant. No one rushed us. No one snubbed us for not ordering wine or cocktails. We nearly choked when we overheard the bill tally of $3,000 USD for the table of four seated next to us. I think they did too.
Café Belong, Toronto:
The city I live in is overflowing with amazing restaurants. I tell people that you can dine a different cuisine each night in Toronto for a year and still have more to discover. One that I’m drawn to often is what I consider a little retreat within the city. Café Belong is tucked in a cozy corner as you enter the Evergreen Brick Works as you zoom down the Bavyiew extension along the DVP. It’s a unique space to enjoy a sense of community and great trails within mere minutes from the concrete jungle of the core. This casual cafe is a reminder that good food comes from resources that we’re fortunate to have access to. Chef Brad Long and his team of chefs who are active advocates of sustainable farming source ingredients from local farmers and producers. Every ingredient is carefully and thoughtfully chosen. The dishes are unforgettably delicious, wholesome and inspiring. Brunches are incredible and summer nights on the peaceful patio on the edge of the park are beautiful. I can never leave without bringing home a few fresh baked blueberry scones even after a full meal…if they’re still available.
Pinchos bars in Barcelona, Spain & Bar Raval in Toronto:
Part of the fun of travelling and eating is discovering interesting places that are not necessarily written up in tourist sites. It’s not difficult to stumble upon a Pincho Bar in Barcelona. These are cozy little bars that are packed especially after work hours. We stumbled upon one with no name just off of La Rambla near our hotel. It is situated on the underground level of a building but we could peer through the window and saw it was a hub of activity. It is obviously a gathering place for locals after work. We took to the two last seats at the bar. People were packed in there like sardines seated side-to-side and back-to-back. I swear I was used as a backrest for some stranger as he leaned on me most of the night. Not for the claustrophobic for sure. The menu was extensive with pinchos (small pieces of bread with toppings) and tapas offerings. Some dishes were sitting on the counter. We simply pointed to everything that looked good as clearly we were not accustomed to the etiquette between a pinxto bar and a pinchos bar. The tally at the end of the night was based on the plates and skewers you had in front of you. Cava was seriously flowing. It was cheap, cheerful and very good. It’s not uncommon for everyone to have a later dinner after a visit to the bar. If you want to experience these kind of dishes experience in Toronto, we love Bar Raval on College Street. The small plates are incredible so try as many as you can. Hot octopus is a must. Make sure you save room for the house-made donuts.
Sonya Davidson is known as The Culture Pearl (@theculturepearl). Her Instagram (highly recommended) is a constant feed of travel, food, entertainment, and fashion. Sonya isn’t afraid to try anything and take her followers along for the ride. As well, she regularly posts on national sites including Urbanmoms.ca, CanadianReviewer.com, and AZNmodern.com