French-Inspired Hidden Gem ‘Colette Grand Cafe’ Now Open Downtown

Colette Grand Cafe has just opened in the former Holts Cafe location in Holt Renfrew. The new restaurant comes to us from Toronto’s Chase Hospitality Group

Yesterday I toured Colette Grand Cafe for the first time and found myself wanting to linger. Restaurants tucked away in department stores are hardly a new thing, but rarely do they look or taste this good!

We first reported on Colette back in December, back when its coming was officially announced thusly:

Today, Chase Hospitality Group and Holt Renfrew announce a national culinary partnership to open Colette Grand Café in five of the luxury retailer’s locations across Canada. Commencing early 2018, the French-inspired restaurant will replace Holts Café in Edmonton, Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto’s Yorkdale and Bloor Street locations.

Inspired by Colette in Toronto, a beloved staple of the city’s upscale dining scene, Colette Grand Café at Holt Renfrew will introduce a chic and sophisticated menu and atmosphere to complement the iconic retailer’s elevated offering.

“Colette Grand Café embodies the French-style and is the perfect fit for Holt Renfrew to offer clientele the full luxury experience,” said Mario Grauso, President, Holt Renfrew. “Well-known for culinary excellence and creating beautifully designed spaces, we are excited to have Chase Hospitality Group restaurants as a valued partner.”

“We are very happy to be partnering with such an iconic luxury brand as Holt Renfrew, and to be expanding Colette Grand Café across Canada,” said Steven Salm, President, Chase Hospitality Group. “The French-inspired aesthetic and menu are a natural fit for the stylish destination and we are so pleased to bring the two together.”

The partnership marks Chase Hospitality Group’s national expansion, just weeks after the group announced 100% plant-based restaurant, Planta, is expanding to Miami in Spring 2018. Earlier this fall, Chase Hospitality Group launched two new restaurant concepts in Toronto, Planta Burger and Palm Lane.

Colette Grand Café menus and décor will be introduced in Holt Renfrew Edmonton, Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto Yorkdale and Toronto Bloor Street locations in 2018.

Back then I had noted that the original address in Toronto had been well received by critics, and posited that its French theme – backed by a confident, classic, vernacular aesthetic – would be welcome here:

It certainly sounds good, and those behind the kitchen machinations of Chase Hospitality Group have good reputations. The company’s Culinary Director, Tyler Shedden, is a BC boy, having been raised on Quadra Island before going on to toil for Gordon Ramsay and Daniel Boulud. Its Corporate Chef, Luke Kennedy, is no stranger to the West Coast either, having worked for several years at “C” Restaurant during its early 2000s heyday, when Shedden was there too.

Known for its French-inspired, sumptuous interiors and well-heeled clientele, Colette should be a good fit for the high-end retailer (which would evidently bid its shoppers never to leave its premises, not even to eat).

Running the kitchen here is Jason Harris, who also helmed the Holts Cafe operation to a close. He told me yesterday that the transition from the Holts menu to the Colette menu was an easy one. His crew began serving the new dishes for the first time on Monday, and it looked like they had everything pretty well dialled in and wired on my walk-through (Jason was kind enough to show me around the kitchen and plate up a few items for me to taste, my favourite among them being the delicious, easy-on-the-eyes beef tartare pictured above.)

Jason explained that every location of Colette will have dishes unique to their respective addresses, but that the bulk of the menus will cleave to the original in Toronto, which is to say they will include the tasty likes of moules, steak frites, et cetera. In all, there are 26 items on the menu here in Vancouver. While the majority of the dishes have a clear French accent, a small pasta section has been woven into the menu, as have a few Italian-inspired starters. Take a look…

There is a brunch card as well, which features Belgian waffles with nutella crumble and orange sabayon; classic eggs benedict with heritage ham; Montecristo sandwiches; dungeness crab omelettes done the proper French way (with polished exterior and slightly custard-y interior — I tasted this and loved it); among a dozen other Saturday/Sunday dishes. Services follow Holt Renfrew hours, so expect 10am to 7pm on Mondays and Tuesdays, and until 9pm the rest of the week.

A tidy drinks list plays a supportive role. The wine selections are limited with just 20 bottles showing on the list. Almost all of them are available by the glass, so there is some freedom of movement for guests. The cocktails read well, too. Granted, the prices are a bit steep at $15 per (up to $45 for the “Beautiful”, which sees some 1990 Marcel Trepout Armagnac and Grand Marnier Cent Cinquantenaire), but this is Holt Renfrew — the commonly accepted notion of what constitutes a bargain is suspended hereabouts. That being said, the sleek, eight seat bar would be a fitting place to savour something well made, regardless of price.

More to my tastes is the dining room, which looks and feels like a genuinely luxurious hideaway of quiet and relaxation. I expect guests will feel kept and coddled here – especially in the corners – tucked away as they would be from the retail world they’ve just braved. The staff appear to be led by Fairmont Hotel refugees (the chef is a Fairmont alum as well), so they know how to make people feel at home once they cross the threshold.

I don’t know if Colette will draw many non-shoppers to its indigo good looks, charms and abilities but I can’t help but selfishly hope it doesn’t. I’d much prefer to keep this cozy oasis of calm a secret, for while there are certainly better, more adventurous establishments in our city, few from this elevated echelon come with such hideaway appeal.

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