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Cluny is a modern French restaurant brimming with all the hallmarks of a classic Parisian bistro and a whole lot of joie de vivre. It just opened last week down the block from its sister restaurant, El Catrin , in the Distillery District

The interior, designed by Munge Leung with graphics by Biography , is a spectacular interpretation of traditional design offset by modern elements. It's evident that no expense was spared; patterned floors and bespoke furnishings add rich textures throughout, while even the serviceware is gilded with the house name.

cluny restaurant

Wine bottles are displayed in floor to ceiling cabinetry, a chef's table wraps around an Art Nouveau-styled raw bar and there's a bread bar complete with butter-warming compartments located centrally in the dining room.

Executive chef Paul Benallick ( Canoe , Auberge du Pommier , Stock Restaurant ) oversees an expansive menu that lists small plates, cheese courses, raw bar selections, entrees and desserts. There's even a whole section dedicated to steak frites which is offered with a choice of top cuts like hanger ($19), striploin ($29) or bone in ribeye ($39).

Cluny Toronto

Ahi tuna tartare ($17) is hand chopped and pays tribute to a classic salad Nicoise. Served in a little vessel adorned with egg, French beans, white anchovy, black olives and roe, it's accompanied by herbed aioli and crostinis.

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Served in a mini cast iron skillet, there is duck poutine ($16) featuring thick-cut potatoes roasted in duck fat and topped with duck confit, Etorki cheese, duck gravy and a sunny side up duck egg. Texturally, it's a little one-note - I can't help but wish those potatoes had taken a turn in the fryer to add a crispy component.

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Buffalo fried sweetbreads ($15) is a playful dish, done in the style of chicken wings only fancier. Fried to a crisp but still tender on the inside, the nuggets are tossed in a fiery red sauce and served with heirloom carrots and a little pot of smoked blue cheese dressing.

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The veal meatball tomahawk ($23) is perhaps my favourite dish of the night. The giant meatball is formed around a veal shank before being braised in tomato sauce and served with pillowy Parisian gnocchi. Compared to the rest of the menu it's a humble dish, though well-executed without relying on luxurious ingredients to impress - though there is always the option to add-on a slab of seared foie gras ($9-12) or have fresh truffles (MP) shaved over top (as you can do with any item on the menu).

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The cocktail list offers selections like the Guillotine ($14), a frothy refreshment comprised of Maker's Mark Bourbon, hazelnut and ginger liqueurs and citrus.

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Cluny can currently accommodate 180 guests, though that's set to expand with the addition of a private dining room for 60 and patio for another 180. Also, still to come is an adjacent patisserie that will offer a retail outlet for house-baked sweets.

Currently the restaurant is open Monday to Thursday from 5pm to 10pm, on Fridays until 11pm and on weekends from 3pm to 11pm.

cluny toronto

Photos by Jesse Milns.

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