Say what you want about Oliver & Bonacini’s brand, they have recently hit on a great little formula that seems to work in my book.  Their newer restaurants like Luma and Cantina provide good food, good service, and a relaxed-yet-classy ambiance.  This opinion extends to the Bannock, a lovely little spot just across from Old City Hall in Toronto.

We came here during a recent trip out East to visit the family and stopped into Toronto for a few days of reunions and face-stuffing.  We had moved from Toronto to Vancouver before the restaurant opened, and when we first saw Bannock we were amazed at how the place looked (especially when you compare it to the coffee place that was there before).  The natural-looking design materials add a nice warmth, and seem to absorb hard sounds, so that all that is left is the energetic murmur of customers’ conversations.

Our waitress was great, knowledgeable about the food, enthusiastic about the ingredients, and quick to take our orders.

Burger and Root Crisps

I was in the mood for a burger.  I know it’s not the most exciting selection, but I always consider burgers to be a kind of litmus test for a restaurant (like an omelet is for a chef).  Bannock’s burger and “root crisps” (i.e., fancy chips) were great.  The burger was well seasoned and beautifully moist.  the root crisps were nothing to write home about, but they added a nice crunch to the place, and were more interesting than regular chips.

Moroccan-inspired Lamb Stew

My wife had a daily special, a kind of Moroccan lamb stew.  Now that was something to write home about.  The temperature in downtown Toronto that day hovered around -15 celcius with the wind chill, so the belly-warming goodness and subtle spiciness of the stew really hit the spot.

From a value perspective, I have to admit that these dishes were a little pricey (my burger was $15) but if you have a little extra cash to throw around the entire Bannock experience is worth it.  My main criticism, however, is how they charged/gouged us for flat water without informing us, making us feel as if we’d been had, and making the restaurant look cheap.  I’m fairly easy to please, but such antics constitute a cardinal sin in my book.

Ignoring the entire “water issue”, Bannock is a solid all around experience, and though the food is a tad pricey, its worth visiting at least once if you find yourself in downtown Toronto.  I’m not sure I’d go back, but I’m glad I went.

Bannock on Urbanspoon