Taking a toddler to a nice restaurant can be… challenging. Taking a toddler to a nice restaurant that’s also buffet-style can be down right impossible. But not at Ricarda’s all-you-can-eat Sunday buffet, a lovely place that offers a feature that should be more common: A supervised play area.
Located at 134 Peter St. (Peter and Richmond) in Toronto, Ricarda’s is a bright and airy space that manages to be both chic and relaxed. It specializes in Mediterranean food and if you stop in for dinner, you can dine on such dishes as rack of lamb and a variety of flatbreads. But on Sundays, no a-la-carte plates are available; instead it’s all about the restaurant’s live jazz brunch buffet.
I know that sounds not particularly child-friendly but trust me, on Sundays, Ricarda’s is more kid-focused than McDonald’s. My family and I stopped by for Easter brunch and were thrilled to see that most diners had young children. We were quickly seated at a table that had a high chair and space for our stroller (!) and not once did I see a staff member give us that look (you know the one I’m talking about).
We weren’t even 15 minutes into our first plate when my two-year-old daughter started fidgeting. Normally this would signal that it was time for my husband and me to start shoveling food into our faces but not at Ricarda’s. Instead of having to speed eat, I simply picked up my daughter and took her over to the play area.
Technically located in an enclosed part of 134 Peter St.’s lobby, there’s no way to sit and eat while you watch your kid play. But that’s okay because the play area is staffed by several employees who supervise your children while you head back to your table. The star of this space is a full-size bouncy castle but there’s also a play kitchen, crafts and a variety of toys. There’s also a nice variety of child-friendly food available right there, so there’s no need for hungry kids to have to run back to their table to eat.
Kids food in the play area at Ricarda’s
Since we were there at Easter, my daughter also got to decorate an Easter-themed cupcake (I suspect she had a lot of help with this activity) and participate in an Easter egg hunt.
While the supervised play area is what drew me to Ricarda’s, it’s the food that’s going to bring me back. Spread mostly across the restaurant’s white counters, the selection at first looked a little underwhelming. But a closer exploration revealed something for everyone (there was even gluten-free penne).
As a carb-fan, I was thrilled to see a wide variety of breads and pastries, including chocolate croissants and my personal favourite, pretzel buns. Every baked item I ate tasted freshly made. I wanted to go back for seconds except I needed to save space for the many other tasty options offered including several kinds of cheese, sliced fruit and a variety of charcuterie. Seafood fans can enjoy fresh oysters and shrimp while vegans will love the wide variety of salads (I particularly recommend the couscous).
There are also plenty of hot options including made-to-order eggs (including omelets and eggs Benedict), a pasta station and a carving station that on my visit, offered beef and one of the most delicious baked salmons I’ve ever tasted (and I’ve eaten a lot of salmon). And of course such classics as freshly made pancakes, waffles and French toast, with a choice of toppings, were also available.
While the dessert selection was a bit more modest that other buffets I’ve been at, it did offer some delicious options including a rosemary lemon panna cotta that I just devoured. There were also such classics as chocolate mousse, tiramisu and cheesecake and there was even a vegan chocolate cake.
In addition to amazing food, Ricarda’s Sunday brunch also features live jazz. We were seated just a few rows back from the trio and at first I was worried that the music would be too loud. Thankfully the volume turned out to be just right. The music really added a nice touch and the kids around us loved it.
Of course all of this awesomeness does come at a price. Ricarda’s charges $59 for adults and $28 for kids (those under three eat free). Caesars and mimosas go for $10 each though you can add on an unlimited drink package for $39. But before you get too excited about that option, note that it’s only good for two hours. As was mentioned to us a couple of times, there is a two-hour cap on Sunday brunch at Ricarda’s, which offers two seatings: 11am and 1:30pm.
Personally I found both the price and the time limit to be perfectly reasonable for the quantity and quality of food we received. After all, how many pretzel buns does one really need to eat?