Every great city boasts some form of grandiose architecture that comes to symbolize the city itself. In Toronto, it’s the CN Tower of course. Just like your average New Yorker probably doesn’t consider the Empire State his usual hangout spot, I couldn’t tell you when I had last been to the tower. Though from the uninspiring lookout room to the blurry windows, I never felt inclined to take a visiting friend or family member there.
Recently, the tower’s main observation lookout level received a facelift. To celebrate the renovation’s success, the CN Tower hosted a VIP experience on the upgraded floor. Featuring a buffet and canapés from their 360 Restaurant, the organizers used the event as an opportunity to also showcase the restaurant’s focus on sourcing the best of local ingredients.
On what is now a 58-second ride in one of six glass-fronted elevators, visitors get to experience a sneak peak of the awaiting view before they reach the top. With floor-to-ceiling glass, the redone room allows everyone to enjoy the space, including those with mobility issues. The high-tech glass changes its darkness according to the reflecting sunlight, making it easier to capture that perfect shot (bless the demands of the age of Instagram!), as well as allowing viewers to better enjoy the stunning view.
What I do remember about visiting the CN Tower in my preteen years, was the lackluster food being served at the 360 Restaurant. This event included three beautiful buffets sprawling with an abundance of food. The first one displayed a variety of bread with smooth-as-cream butter; a cut-to-order, perfectly cooked medium rare, grass-fed PEI beef tenderloin; and a vibrant spread of fresh vegetables. Unfortunately, what I was most excited about, the freshly-shucked Atlantic oysters, tasted overly salty and were improperly cleaned.
The second table was where I spent most of my time. A great selection of local cheeses and charcuterie were laid out, each one more delicious than the other. I was delighted to learn that we have such great produce in our very own backyard. However, the canapés left much to be desired. Dry chorizo and scallop skewers could have used much more care and attention, while trout roe mini tarts were completely forgettable.
The desserts on the final table were winners all around. From the colourful French macaroons as good as my beloved Ladurée, to the delicate strawberry pavlovas, and the biggest star of all, the decadent s’mores mini jars. The open bar was impressively efficient; constantly pouring glass after glass of Canadian local sparkling, red, and white wines, as well as catering to the guests’ cocktail orders. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to note that those abstaining from alcohol only had the choices between still or sparkling water. No guest should be left to feel like an afterthought.
Another issue throughout the evening was the insanely hot temperature of the room. Men were dripping in their suits while I mentally cried, and I bet I wasn’t the only one, over my freshly-applied makeup. Attendees rushed to get their best selfies taken before they looked like they just came out of a sauna.
While the new and improved main observation floor can now finally be considered an essential attraction – if they install air conditioning – I cannot say the same about the 360 Restaurant. The kitchen is definitely sourcing all the right ingredients, so much so, that the majority of the best savoury items offered were the ones that weren’t tampered with. Aside from the pastry department, which shines as bright as all the city lights outside, the lack of finesse and simply lazy execution of the canapés, means 360 still has much improving to do before it becomes as worthy of a visit.