First Look: A trio of chefs at Constantine, Craig Harding's new restaurant inside The Anndore House


Published:

Image: Yvonne Tsui

AlterEgo, the restaurant group that brings together Craig Harding and Alexandra Hutchison, (Campagnolo) Jack and Domenic Scarangella, and Steven Christian (Mercatto) have opened their new Mediterranean restaurant, Constantine inside the new Anndore House hotel on Charles Street from the Silver Hotel Group (Novotel on the Esplanade, Radisson on the Lake, Pantages Hotel).

The project has been about a year in the making. When AlterEgo was originally approached there was slight hesitation since they had also just opened La Palma, their Italian-via-California restaurant on Dundas West. But after the success of La Palma, the team knew it would be a good opportunity to “do something a little bit different,” says Jack Scarangella.

The team came up with the concept of Constantine — named after Constantine the Great, the Roman emperor who moved the Roman capital to Istanbul for a thousand years, and inevitably “a crossing and sharing of cultural ideas and food ideas and ingredients” took place says, Craig Harding, the group’s culinary director, who is responsible for overseeing and conceptualizing the menu. The AlterEgo team along with a few members of the Silver Hotel Group went on a pilgrimage from Istanbul to Tel Aviv to gather inspiration for their new restaurant.

“When you’re eating in these countries you don’t feel that it’s that far from the climate of Italy. The restaurants that are Italian in those countries are serving Italian-inspired food with those ingredients of Israel, Lebanon and Turkey. Everybody puts their little spin, their little twist on it,” says Harding.


IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI


IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI

“The thing that I kind of gravitate towards is always Italian, it’s my first love,” he adds pointing to the menu’s Italian roots. But after eight years of Campagnolo it was time to “push the boundaries a little bit” and go “outside the box” with the ingredients and concept. With the opportunity to once again open another restaurant Harding wanted to go even further, to “feel the ability and freedom to use ingredients from all over Europe and the Middle East” where the name ties in the east meets west vibe of the space and the concept of the food.

In addition to Harding’s Italian staples, housemade pastas and burrata, there are other grains like couscous and bulgur thrown into the mix. “It’s just fun,” says Harding.

The restaurant, designed by Studio Munge draws inspiration from the hotels moniker, specifically the “house” part of the name. It is separated into the family room which has a fireplace as its centerpiece, the kitchen is in full view with a hearth stove and Argentine grill, and to the side is the dining room. The back patio will be their sort of backyard. There’s handmade pottery of glass vases and whimsical art from Turkish Artist, Merve Ozaslan. The space, which doesn’t have many outdoor windows introduces a large skylight and the addition of fig and olive trees brings outdoor elements to liven up the space.


IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI

Being a restaurant inside a hotel, Constantine is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. And with a 145-seat restaurant, a 45-seat bar and a second floor private events space as well as a front and back patio to come, Harding needed to bring in support. That comes in the form of Robert Leclair (Fabbrica, Masseria), the Executive Chef, and Morgan Bellis (Oliver & Bonacini, Lavelle) as Chef de Cuisine.

You’ll find dishes such as Shakshuka, two poached eggs on a bed of spiced tomato sauce, basil and za’aatar flatbread ($16). There’s also the millennial favourite — Avocado Toast ($12) with dukkah eggs, smashed avocado and shallot marmalade atop a crusty sourdough. For lunch one can feast on a Kale, Rutabaga and Feta salad ($12) topped with jalapeno, sesame, pomegranate and dill. It’s both a feast for the stomach and the eyes — like Christmas on a plate. Or the Spaghetti ($21) with aglio e olio sauce, housemade breadcrumbs, and marinated Fogo Island shrimp. The Branzino ($25) sits atop a bed of bulgur with currants and pistachios.


IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI


IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI

The cocktails are riffs on classics with Mediterranean inspiration. There’s the Barakah ($16), a bourbon-centric drink topped with calvados, Averna, Moroccan syrup and Angostura bitters. There are also “Temperance Libations” — non-alcoholic beverages that aren’t just juice and soda. The Almond Cobbler ($8) is a sort of float with orgeat, lime, soda and angostura bitters.

The team, in addition to the restaurant is responsible for the entire food and beverage program from in-room dining to the Scarlet Door, the café and commissary which serves up sumptuous pastries by La Palma’s veteran pastry chef, Stefania Giansante. Tucked away next to the café is the Crow’s Nest Barber Shop — and because the whole space is fully licensed, you’ll be able to imbibe on an alcoholic beverage while waiting for a trim. Marie-Claude McNoel will be responsible for the pastry program at Constantine.


IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI

“I have always been a collaborative chef,” says Harding. As Creative Director, he is responsible for creating the framework, setting boundaries and expectations and the approach to running the kitchen. “From there, they can take it and run with it and infuse their own ideas,” he adds.

And while the saying goes that having “too many cooks in the kitchen” is not a good thing — at Constantine, the trio of cooks can only be a treat for Toronto diners.

Constantine, 15 Charles Street East, 647-475-4436


IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI


IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI


IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI


IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI

Edit Module

Join the conversation and have your say by commenting below. Our comment system uses a Facebook plugin. Please note that you'll have to turn off some ad-blockers in order to see the comments.

Edit Module

Follow us on Twitter @PostCity for more on what to eat, where to shop and what to do in Toronto.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit Module