"French cuisine is largely living in exile, thanks to a diaspora of chefs
such as Daniel Boulud who carry the tradition forward, and also to legions of dedicated Francophiles who flock to places such as Toronto's
Le Sélect Bistro, a city institution where La Marseillaise plays on the answering-machine greeting,
says Michael Steinberger, author of Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine and the Decline of France"... “We eat the way we do in New York and Toronto and London because of the French, because of all the French chefs who came here in the 1960s when this was a culinary wasteland,” he adds. “They created the idea of artisanal local fare and seasonal eating. Those have become mantras."
– Michael Steinberger, author, in conversation with Boyd Erman, Globe and Mail, July 2009
Eight places to "seal the deal". In no particular order, here are four good spots for a covert business meal, and another four that will impress clients and seal that deal. First the private... 1. Le Sélect Bistro, Authentic Parisian cuisine with a quiet garden patio out back. Birds chirp as you ink the contract.
– Toronto Star, June 2009
Taking time off her book signing tour, Tana Ramsay, wife of Gordon (who
was at Le Sélect a few months ago), and herself a celebrated
chef, was in for a quick lunch of Croustillants de Pied de Cochon (boneless
pig trotter beignets) and a traditional Quiche Lorraine. Her
book “Tana Ramsay’s Home Made” is a must for time-pressed
homemakers who want to please family members, eat well and in style.
To be sure, no f-words at Tana’s table.
– Tana Ramsay in Toronto, November 2008
Jamie Oliver also dropped in for a late lunch, taking time off
from a busy book signing tour for his newly published “Jamie at
Home” and the accompanying TV series. He ordered a genuine and
tender Alberta Bavette d’Aloyau with shallots. “Jamie
at Home” is about simple, natural, flavourful cooking inspired
mostly by his own vegetable patch.
– Jamie Oliver in Toronto, November 2008
Le Sélect has bistro ambience to spare. The menu is dominated
by classic French fare with daring twists: perhaps crispy sow’s
ear with lentil salad, or cockscomb with pinenuts and mushrooms braised
in red wine. The puff pastry of the Tarte Niçoise is
airy and fragile, with dabs of goat cheese, heirloom tomatoes and thin
– Toronto Life, December 2008
"Unlike some wine-friendly spots in town, Le Sélect has
a well-chosen beer list. While best known for its 15,000-bottle wine
cellar, Le Sélect
also has 60 kinds of bottled beer and seven draft taps. The beer list
(ask your server for the full list, not the one on the main menu) is
focused on Belgian, German and French brews, with some good Ontario choices.
Le Sélect also has one of the city's best classic French bistro
menus, including an outstanding cassoulet, which goes brilliantly with
a Belgian-style tripel. Try the cassoulet, paired with Chimay White or
Unibroue Maudite, or the duck confit and a bottle of Maudite."
- Josh Rubin, Toronto Star, July 2008
Chef Gordon Ramsay, star of the reality TV shows "The
F Word", "Hell’s Kitchen",
and "Kitchen Nightmares", had dinner at Le
Sélect on the occasion of the Canadian book launch of Gordon
Ramsay’s Fast Food. Having asked the
Chef to choose his meal, he was served Cocks’ Comb with
cèpes mushrooms, Sow’s Ear with lentils and watercress,
tripe with tomato and fennel, and an Île Flottante with Crème
Anglaise. He thanked the cooking team and Chef Ponzo for a "----ing" good meal.
- Gordon Ramsay in Toronto, April 2008
"For lovers of vraie Parisian ambience, food and
drink there is simply no better spot than Le Sélect. This is the
- Wallpaper city Guide 2007-2008
"Best meals of 2007: Le Sélect Bistro's Brunch
for its eggs Bénédicte. Le Sélect serves its poached
eggs and perfect Hollandaise on a rich buttery croissant, with homefries
replaced by greens and mushrooms sautéed in butter... While you
read the Herald Tribune, it’s like a mini trip to Paris, every
Sunday, sans attitude. "
- City Bites - Best Meals of 2007
"Toronto sparkles! We may have thought it
was too tame and unadventurous, but the city is now “plugged” and
kicking. Hop in a train and go take her pulse. Our favourite address:
Le Sélect Bistro for its authentic French bistro ambiance."
- Châtelaine (French version) - May 2007
"Three stars. We toss two ears and the tail to Chef Albert Ponzo!"
- Gina Mallet, The National Post - March 2007
Best Bistro of the Year!
- Eye Weekly Magazine - Readers' selection - January 2007
- Joanne Kates, The Globe and Mail - December 2006
Best Bistro in Ontario
"When Le Sélect moved this year to their new abode, 12,000 bottles representing 1,000 different labels had to be transported causing much liquor grief to its owners. The mainly French list is strong in Bordeaux, Languedoc, Rhône and Loire, with vintages spanning from the late forties and up. Chef Albert Ponzo supervises the accomplished Bistro cuisine."
- The Wine Access - September 2006
Very Good to Excellent!
12,000-bottle wine collection: "Outstanding. Moderate pricing."
- Zagat Survey - Autumn 2006/2007
One of Toronto’s favourite spots for authentic
"Le Sélect recently relocated to a new space evoking a 20s-era Parisian Bistro. We love it because one entire wall of the Bistro’s private dining room is covered with dozens of posters. In addition to being colourful and cheery, the collage captures the bon vivant spirit of French café society."
- House and Home - October 2006
J.P. Challet infuses the menu with his passion
for French cuisine
"French Food lovers, rest assured you can still enjoy one of the city’s most loved Parisian-style bistros. Le Sélect hasn’t closed its doors but moved to a boulevard more befitting its Latin Quarter cachet. The dining room’s burgundy banquettes, mahogany panels, and zinc bar transport all the charm of the original to the new locale. A priceless collection of 12,000 bottles has arrived intact too. A new addition is Lyon-born and acclaimed Toronto-based J.P. Challet (formerly of the Fifth) who infuses the menu with his passion for French cuisine. Challet is serving classics like Beef Bourguignon, Confit de Canard, Choucroute, Bouillabaisse, and frisée salad with warm goat cheese on scallop potatoes. Plus, perfect for theatre-goers, a $19.95 prix-fixe steak frites dinner is served late."
Anne Gibson, Where Magazine, April 2006.
Le Sélect looks precisely like a Parisian
bistro of the 1920s
"Le Sélect’s megapopularity is due in part to its casual beauty. Like a hot blond in jeans and cowboy boots, this place seduces au naturel. It looks precisely like a Parisian bistro of the 1920s: small black and white tiles galore, deco light fixtures, Art Nouveau façade, fabulous old French movie posters, zinc bar and copies of the Herald Tribune at the front, as if we’re all expats in gay Paree. Call for a reservation and you hear a cock crowing La Marseillaise. But good luck getting a table, because the place is as hot as a Parisian crêpe seller on the street in July.
Talk to Toronto foodies older than 40 and you’ll discover they have a thing for Le Sélect. Was it the hanging breadbaskets that dangled over every table? For 29 years on Queen Street West the bistro was the darling of grad students and Francophile sans high net worth. This is another clue to its current success, for dinner is cheap(ish) at Le Sélect. Two can dine for under $100 including wine, tax and tip. Doing that à la française in Toronto is special. Doing that in such pretty surroundings is very special and clearly is special to many people.
Dinner for two with wine tax and tip: $120"
- Joanne Kates, The Globe and Mail, March, 2006
Le Sélect hits all the right notes
"Le Sélect recently moved from its Queen Street west home after 29 years to airy new digs at the gentrifying edge of the garment district. For sheer ambiance, it hits all the right notes: tiled floors, handsome dark wood, atmospheric posters. The hanging bread baskets are gone but the cultish wine list, tied in bureaucratic red tape these many weeks, is finally free to sample. The new Sélect captures the feeling of being in Paris, and there the customer is not only right, her wallet is well-cared for: Entrées average $14 at Lunch and $23 at Dinner. Dinner for two with wine tax and tip: $120"
- Amy Pataki, Toronto Star, February, 2006
J.P. Challet's intoxicating fish soup
"After nearly three decades on Queen West, long-running French bistro Le Sélect has relocated to more spacious digs not far away on Wellington West. Architect Ralph Giannone's recreation is uncanny, duplicating every detail of the original, from the art nouveau facade to the welcoming zinc bar to the posters plastered on its pale faux-nicotine-stained walls... The relaxed room's packed with long-time regulars here to check out Jean-Pierre Challet's inaugural card.
We begin with Challet's intoxicating fish soup... coral-hued and coupled with garlic crisps with a sweet red-pepper rouille ($7.50 lunch/$8.50 dinner)... A deliciously dressed tangle of feathery frissée ($10.50) redolent of smoky sesame impresses, especially when paired with a mille-feuille of buttery scalloped potato generously garnished with a gratinée of whipped chèvre. Al dente house-made ravioli ($15.95/$18.95) stuffed with puréed pumpkin sweetened with maple syrup come sided with marvellously sculpted and roasted veggies...Confit de canard ($13.95/$20.95) arrives with three slender slices of terrific pommes Sarladaises fried in duck fat and crisp haricots verts." Continue...
- Steven Davey, NOW Magazine, February 2, 2006
charm survives Le Sélect's move to new digs.
In January, after more than a year of struggles with city bureaucrats- six months getting the permits to move a driveway a few metres - veteran Queen West Bistro Le Sélect finally moved to new premises on Wellington. Amazingly, its 28 years of patina seem reincarnated in a décor of subway tiles, posters and mahogany tables. Summer will see tables out front and in a garden at the back. The big change, though, is to the kitchen, now the domain of chef J.P. Challet, late of the Fifth, and to the hard-boiled eggs that always graced the bar. Never mind that Parisians have eaten bar eggs for centuries: city health cops insist Le Sélect’s can’t be real. Dommage!"
- James Chatto, Toronto Life, January 2006
The concierge at our hotel recommended Le
Sélect Bistro as the best French bistro and restaurant in Toronto,
and after dining there, we concur. So many great and classic selections
on the menu that deciding what to order can be hard. Extraordinary gourmet
quality French cuisine complemented by an incredible selection of wines
and served by a gracious staff in a beautiful relaxed setting. Whether
its for a special occasion or just unforgettable lunch or dinner,
give this legend a try.
- North American Restaurant Association, explaining why they gave Le Sélect their Award of Excellence.
“Think bistro, and steak-frites is the first dish that comes to mind. Many try and fail miserably. But Le Sélect's Bavette gets it just about right, from its first-rate fries to the appropriately chewy strip of hanger topped with sautéed shallots.
We're equally knocked out by the kitchen's duck confit, a moist mahogany-hued leg 'n' thigh paired with super scalloped potatoes, haricots verts and tart cranberry relish. More classic comfort, Le Sélect's braised lamb shank arrives surrounded by milky mash, its meaty flesh falling from the bone and sauced with a Cabernet Sauvignon jus infused with prunes.
Prunes reappear in the house's boozy Armagnac ice
cream that accompanies its superb tarte Tatin, a delicious caramelized
apple upside-down cake and the best dessert on offer.”
- Now Magazine's Steven Davey - February 2004
"It's easy to see why people return year after year to Le Sélect. The postered rooms radiate warmth in spirit and, on a chilly fall evening, in temperature…While the menu embraces all the classics bavette steak with frites, bouillabaisse, moules marinières chef Brad Clark executes some not-so-traditional takes. Take the escargots ($10), often simply a good excuse for garlic butter. Here, tender snails are well matched with equally meaty shiitake mushrooms. The two are stuffed into a crispy purse of phyllo, around which pools a red wine sauce tasting faintly of Cassis.
Frisée can be a messy lettuce to eat, since few of our professional kitchens trim it into bite-sized pieces. Le Sélect takes the time. Nestled into the lettuce ($9.25) is an egg-sized lump of baked goat cheese updated with a sesame seed crust.
It's back to the classics, though, for mains such as duck confit ($19.95), a pair of legs stunning enough to rival those of Betty Grable. The slick of orange sauce and haystack of excellent frites are a bonus. The same confit turns up in the admirable cassoulet ($21), along with morsels of braised lamb shank and a cocktail Toulouse sausage. It's the perfect marriage of proteins, the long-cooked meats enhancing the rosemary-scented beans and vice versa.
Service remains accomplished to the end, as does the food. Lemon tart ($8.95) nicely cleans the palate.
It's not every restaurant that can celebrate 20
years. Even rarer is the veteran that, like Le Sélect, stays on
top of the game."
- The Toronto Star's Amy Pataki - November 2003
Is there a more classic bistro in town? Aside from breadbaskets
filled with molasses-brown rye hanging from the ceiling, Le Sélect
cleaves to type: soupe à l’oignon ($6.50), Provençal
goat cheese tart ($10), cassoulet ($22), grilled andouillette ($18).
Prix-fixe dinners ($29.00) offer any of five starters, mains and desserts.
Where else but here to order terrine de foie gras ($18)? A Lemon
tart ($7) is lip-puckering, as it should be. There’s a bistro-broad
choice in drink: seven open reds, seven whites and a bubbly, plus 1,000
wines by the bottle. And on tap, Holsten lager, three Belgian Abbaye
beers and three Canadian microbrews."
- Toronto Life - Spring 2003 - James Chatto
"One evening I was taken to Le Sélect Bistro
on Queen Street West which was heaven. It was everything you could wish
a French bistro to be, warm and friendly with delicious food and a lovely
terrace to watch the world go by."
- The London (UK) Sunday Mail. December 2002.
Voted Best French Restaurant in Toronto by the readers of Now Magazine. 2002
Voted Best Bistro in Toronto by the readers of Eye Weekly. 2002
Voted Best Winelist in Toronto by the readers of Where Magazine. 2002.
Voted Favourite Restaurant Winelist by the listeners of 680News radio station. 2002.
"A handsome fixture on Queen Street West, Le Sélect
Bistro has quietly evolved over the years to become this town's favoured
authentic French bistro. Along with wonderfully reliable duck confit,
steak frites, mussels marinières, bouillabaisse
and the finest foie gras imaginable, Le Sélect has a selection
of international wines that is simply without parallel. Every area of
France is well represented, with much also from Spain, Italy and Portugal,
and New World vineyards in California, Ontario, Australia, New Zealand
and Chile also in fine form. Valuable assistance on the part of knowledgeable
staff is abundant as are the well-composed tasting notes evident beneath
many of the listings. No wonder, then, that Le Sélect Bistro has
garnered Torontonians' vote for Best Wine List."
- Where Magazine - May 2001
"Being the French cuisine guide of About.com, I also
saved time while in Toronto to enjoy a fantastic French bistro meal at
Le Sélect Bistro on the famous Queen St. It was like a trip back
to Paris... I wish more restaurants had such interesting websites, it's
what prompted my visit in the first place."
"Long before Queen West became posh pavement
to stroll upon, proprietors Jean-Jacques and Frédéric were
giving restaurant-goers fine French food. This elegant but casual Queen
West bistro has grown and expanded since those quaint days as a hole-in-the-wall
find... loyals still swear by it. City francophones, locals and tourists
congregrate inside and on the front patio... My fave is the the smoked
whitefish mousse spread over grilled foccacio bread. Run out of bread?
You don't have to chase the busy busboys. It's hanging in baskets, hot
and fresh, just above your head."
- Alan A. Vernon, Toronto.com
"Although Toronto is not particularly noted for its
French food, you can find reasonably priced, Left-Bank bistro food and
atmosphere at this Queen Street institution. Classic dishes such as bavette
aux échalottes, steamed mussels with white wine or confit
de canard are served in this warm and pleasant corner room with great
people-watching views. Authentic zinc bar and a superb wine list. Reservations
"This is an authentic Left Bank Paris bistro. Classic
dishes such as Confit de Canard are served to you while you enjoy
the jazz music. The frites are the finest this side of the Atlantic.
Each table has a hanging bread basket which can be hand-cranked down
to table level. The service is friendly and attentive. Reservations recommended."
"Traditional French food served in a bistro atmosphere.
Amazing wine list. The frites are the best in town, and the service
is excellent and friendly. Moderate pricing."
- The Mini Rough Guide
"From the bread to the duck confit everything here
is classically French and is done well. One can find a wine to compliment
any choice of meal from the extensive wine list which, of course, greatly
favours the French vintages. The decor is comfortable, yet elegant, and
the servers knowledgable and efficient. Prices are reasonable for the
quality, portions, and presentation of the dishes and there is a wide
selection of decadent desserts -for those
who make it that far."
- EX Read.com
"Best Old World Vintages at a bargain -
Le Sélect Bistro has more than 10,000 bottles at rest in the cellar,
many of which are dusted off and served at below-market prices."
- Margaret Swaine, Toronto Life
"Called Toronto's Literary Bistro for its readings
and sponsorship of the Festival literature prize, this bar brings
a taste of genuine Paris to the downtown Toronto area. It also serves
as a venue for the annual International Jazz Fest. But the culinary
side of the equation isn't forgotten amid the cultural activity. The
bistro features exquisite French cuisine and a wine list that includes
over 750 selections, winner of the Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence.
So, if you want to hang out with hip writers, poets and playwrights while
enjoying a Parisian-style meal, you've come to the right place."
"This ever-evolving French restaurant is a bastion
of good food with an excellent atmosphere."
"Bringing a touch of Paris to Downtown "funky" Queen
Street West, Le Sélect provides a reliable menu, an incredible
wine list, intimate ambiance, and friendly service. Great people-watching
on the patio of good-looking idlers. "
- Zaggat Survey, Spring 1999
"Oooh-la-la. Patio seats 22. Musicians during
June's Downtown Jazz festival, writers noshing during October's Authors
- Eye Magazine, Bar and Patio guide 1999
"I go to Le Sélect for their Tarte Niçoise
au Chèvre, and I think God himself invented it. I have to have
it once a week. It's a puff pastry filled with goat cheese, olives, tomatoes,
- Novelist Barbra Leslie (Nerve) - Toronto Star, September 16, 1998
"Le Sélect is a neat example of the
urge to retain. I don't refer to anything as grand as its magnificent
zinc bar imported from Paris. No, it's that French poster collection
that is just left there to age and take on the unmistakable ochre veneer
of a genuine Parisan bistro."
- Michael R. Finn - Design - Toronto Life, October 98.
Drink List of the Month:
"...So great a choice. Ask the bar manager to help you match wine, meal and pocketbook."
- Toronto Life
"I'll head down to Le Sélect Bistro...
The atmosphere is very comfortable. It's not too pricey, but makes me
feel like I am treating myself. They have a killer wine list."
- Actor Jeff Douglas - Tonight in T.O. (The Toronto Star)
"...and then I'll have dinner at Le Sélect
Bistro (328 Queen W.). Their food is hearty and they have an exciting
and fair-priced wine list. I'm looking forward to trying some of the
new wines the owners have recently acquired; they take such special care
in their selections."
- Singer Pistolé of The New Despots - Tonight in T.O. (The Toronto Star)
"Diners will find a safe haven in the cozy,
self-contained world of Le Sélect... Le Sélect is kind
to the pocketbook. Wines here are a special treat, accessible to all
budgets. And waiters, neither diffident nor snooty, are delightful guides
on a journey through the restaurant's long list."
- En Route magazine - (Air Canada)
"...Enjoy the Parisian bistro atmosphere replete
with zinc bar, burgundy banquettes, bread baskets charmingly hung above
each table, wooden chairs and art museum posters (it's so authentically
Parisian, one half expects to see Camus and Sartre heatedly duscussing
existentialism at a corner table)..."
"I'll go to Le Sélect after the performance
at Harbourfront' Premiere Dance Theatre. It's a restaurant that has been
recommended to me for their good French cuisine."
- Yvan Michaud - Artistic director of Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal -Tonight in T.O. (The Toronto Star)
"Le Sélect Bistro has been hailed by
critics and reviewers as one of the most trustoworthy establishments
in Toronto. Fair pricing and generous portions of innovative and carefully
prepared Bistro food have made this venerable Queen Street institution
a favourite among Torontonians."
- The Globe and Mail - Toronto Magazine
The Soccer World Cup at Le Sélect
"The right way to see the Soccer World Cup final between France and Brazil was to hang out at a French bistro and refresh my own roots. Did it matter if the French were to lose but the food was good? The bar at Le Sélect, the longest-running French bistro in Toronto, was crammed with French and Brazilian guests and diplomats, so we followed the game vicariously by sitting on the patio and listening to the crowd.
Le Sélect has a cheap fixed-priced menu, a regular more expensive menu and a huge wine list. It was going to be hard and emotional, so we drank iced Pinot Gris d'Alsace. With the first great cheer, we ordered Le Sélect's own fresh terrine of foie gras (with which a glass of Chilean late-harvest Sémillon is offered). The second French goal sent us to the restaurant specialties. A platter of hors d'oeuvre included a terrific smoked whitefish mousse. For main course, the chicken in Katif, shredded phyllo pastry wrapped around the chicken breast with olives and goat cheese, was excellent.
But at that moment, there was a huge roar. I hurried
to the bar. A third goal! The French were amazingly decorous: no Marseillaise,
no Vive la France, but owner Frédéric Geisweiller broke
out the Champagne, which went nicely with dessert - a chocolate wedge
with lemon mascarpone, apple tarte Tatin with prune and Armagnac ice
cream. Back on the patio, serious patrons were talking about the French
origins of the Brazilian flag's motto. Cool."
- The Globe and Mail - Gina Mallet - July 18, 1998
"This is a proper bistro, with bistro food,
a bistro clientele, and bistro prices..."
- Sarah Waxman, restaurant reviewer
"I like it because of the Parisian French feeling.
The atmosphere is both casual and sophisticated."
- Radio host J.D. Roberts
"Le Select serves the kind of Parisian Bistro
food that many say is the best deal in town..."
- The Buffalo News