I spent my 4th year in the University of Guelph’s Hotel and Food Administration program working on a case study for Oliver & Bonacini. Students in the challenging Operations Management class researched O&B’s portfolio extensively, suggesting an ideal next move for their expansion. With strong industry connections it’s no shock that Toronto’s most celebrated restaurant company seeks out the top graduating students each year, throwing them into management training programs across their culinary empire.
My first experience dining with Oliver & Bonacini was a memorable meal at Biff’s Bistro located on Front Street for my University graduation celebration. Since my first encounter I have enjoyed feasts throughout their portfolio: Canoe, Auberge du Pommier, Luma, Canteen, Bannock, and O&B Cafe Grill. It was fitting perhaps that the final box to check off my “O&B To Do List,” would be Jump, the duo’s first endeavour.
This past November Oliver & Bonacini’s original restaurant Jump celebrated its 20th anniversary. Marking two decades of business together, owners Peter Oliver and Michael Bonacini celebrated by unveiling a million dollar renovation and newly appointed chef to ensure their Financial District establishment remains a fixture in the neighbourhood.
Upon arrival it’s hard not to miss a wall of glowing amber spirits bottles which sit perched across from the bar. An invitation perhaps to start things off with a stiff drink, and with a collection of over 60 types of whiskey, bourbon and scotch the bartender is happy to oblige.
Walking through the dining room, one notices that designers have re-imagined the space with cognac and amber tones complemented by polished wood and charcoal grey accents. Dramatic lighting elements add flair to the space, featuring oversized drum shades and a 46 foot light fixture.
Chef Paul Benallick is the driving force in the kitchen offering a fresh approach to the restaurants modern menu. On one cold winters eve I found myself marching a frozen finger down Paul’s menu. Dale arrived shortly after, plopping himself across the table and flashing a smile in anticipation for our night out on the town. We started the evening with a tip of our hats to fine whisky and spiced bourbon. Listening to the chitter chatter at the tables around us it was clear that on weekends the restaurant caters to folks looking for pre-theatre libations. I had planned a double bill with Dale that evening, a fine feast followed by my first visit to the city’s famed improv theatre, Second City.
We selected a handful of dishes and caught up on lost time while sipping our way through two glasses of my favourite Ontario sparkler, Cuvee Catherine by Henry of Pelham. Each dish offered a perfect homage to the winter season. Honey Roasted Squash Salad and Pressed Chicken Terrine Confit offered up a fresh start while a hearty bowl of Truffle Ricotta Gnocchi and massive Beef & Short Rib Burger filled the void.
Maple Smoked Manhattan
gibson’s finest aged 12 years whisky, sweet red vermouth, smoked maple, maple bacon skewer
Spiced Bourbon Sour
jim beam, lime juice, simple syrup, habenero tabasco, jalapeno coin
Pressed Chicken Terrine Confit
raw vegetable salad, hibiscus dressing
Honey Roasted Squash Salad
pumpkin seeds, pickled baked potato squash, empire apple dressing
The Jump Beef & Short Rib Burger
aged cheddar, bibb lettuce, truffle mayo, tomato, dill pickle relish
Truffle Ricotta Gnocchi
northern woods wild mushrooms, porcini cream