Head chef Denis Guiol adds a dash of European flare to neighbourhood night scene
Holly’s head chef Denis Guiol, wants to inject some Montreal soul into Toronto’s lifeline.
The Yonge-Eglinton watering hole is under construction in early May, and the 36-year-old gourmand is aiming for a mid-May soft opening. They’re reviving the old home of Scuffy’s on Eglinton Avenue East.
Faces of past Hollywood stars — Marilyn Monroe, Alfred Hitchcock and Liz Taylor — mingle with the Heroin Chic icons like Kate Moss along the columns in the entranceway. To the right, a t-shaped bar is topped off with lacquered Maple.
The ceiling is a latticework of racetrack lights, adding to the industrial feel.
There’s an appeal to a female clientele, plus the theme the restaurant’s namesake derives from muscle cars.
“The original full name is based on Four Barrel Holley’s,” he said, pointing out the carburetor-style lights that emphasize the namesake, minus the E in Holley though.
Yonge-Eglinton also has a youthful population, which the team at Holly’s wants to steer in their direction.
“It’s a very generational bar. We have this pop art style, plus the garage, industrial work,” he said. “It’s a clash of knowing who you are and not knowing who you are.”
Then there’s the menu, which is rife with the European infused roots of a France-born, Montreal-raised Guiol.
He’s been in the business for 15 years, making his way from the bottom up. Guiol earned a gig at La Champagnerie in Montreal’s historic district and subsequently Pub Brewsky, which is across the street.
“There is this Montreal soul food that we get and we’re just bringing it to Toronto,” he said, his voice purring like a Chevelle engine. “Since I’ve been in Toronto I’ve seen a lot of places. It’s just like Montreal, but it’s on a bigger scale.”
Without disclosing too much, Guiol mentions tidbits like jerk chicken tacos, braised lamb sandwiches, and old-school meatballs. Then come fall, there will be a shift to comfort foods like stews and pot pies.
“But re-invented,” he added. “There’s always that notch more that you want to bring.”
When it comes down to what old Melba Toast is packing — or in this case Holly’s — just being able to get their hands dirty working on good food is Guiol’s goal.
“Eat at Holly’s and it’s going to be good anytime,” he said.