An evening at Magnolia Cafe


As a self professed ambivert, I will the first to tell you, that while I do enjoy (on rare occasion) large events, I personally prefer a more intimate setting, a small gathering of people, and over food? Yes please.

So when I got invited to the tasting night at Magnolia Cafe, I couldn't refuse. Magnolia Cafe is a newly opened intimate space, tucked away on the upper level of the Maraval Plaza on Saddle Road. The building is easy to find, and there is parking in front and in the basement. As you get to the top of the stairs, or should you decide to take the elevator to the upper floor, it's on your left. 


The first thing that caught my eye as I entered was the decor. Minimalist black iron pieces flanked on the walls, accented with varying greenery, as well as black, white and gold accessories. You could tell that they were very deliberate in how they decorated, ensuring that their aesthetic was evident, while keeping the small space feeling open and airy. 

The most prominent feature in the space is the bar, so after making small talk with a few other attendees, I planted my derriere on a bar stool. Why? Because in true Nelly B. fashion, I'm a sucker for a good cocktail. And boy of boy, what I tasted that night did not disappoint. 

Millennial dream
Rosé all day
Their signature cocktails are amazing. Now I am nothing or nowhere close to an alcohol connoisseur, so I can't go on to tell you about what flavour notes this and hint of this rum or that vodka or whatever other goodness they added to their concoctions. But what I can tell you, is that happy hour is REAL. Be warned though, don't let the deliciousness of these cocktails fool you, they will have a lightweight singing drunk karaoke in no time. It me... I'm the lightweight. Note to self, do not drink on an empty stomach Tshenelle, you know better. 

Opting for an off menu alcohol free drink request, one the very capable bartenders hooked me up with a virgin colada just as the food came out. What I enjoyed most about the tasting night was that everything was a few bites in size versus full plates. That way we got to taste a bit of everything that they have on their menu. 

Cajun beer batter fried cauliflower with a sweet Thai chilli sauce
Chicken and waffles
Have you ever had fried cauliflower? No? Well me either, at least not before that night. Those fried cauliflower nuggets are addictive. I legitimately contemplated attempting to recreate them at home, but that plan was very short-lived. After having a few too many of those (I did say they were addictive) we were treated with chicken and waffles. Now I've had chicken and waffles a few times, but I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Magnolia's take on it. The chicken was well breaded and seasoned, and the waffle was slightly crunchy on the outside, but dense on the inside. 

Shrimp and grits
Grits was something I'd always been fascinated by. Mainly because I had no clue what it was exactly. And for those who like myself, have no clue what it is exactly, think of it like you would cornmeal, but from a white corn instead of a yellow one. So they make it in a way that is similar to polenta. As for the taste? LET. ME. TELL. ALLYUH. SOMETHING......

I am in love with this dish. The shrimp was cooked perfectly, and had a slightly hint of something sweet and spicy to it that really complemented the creamy texture of the grits. I dreamt about this days after the tasting and in a fleeting moment, even considered recreating. Again, another short-lived idea. 



After the shrimp and grits came out these two. Honey bourbon pork with mash and broccoli, as well as salmon with mash and broccoli. I love a good mashed potatoes, and these were good smooth, creamy, and well seasoned. The pork was fantastic. Not too chewy with lots of flavour. The salmon tasted great, my only issue with it being that the skin on it was a little salty. Nothing to send your pressure up, but it was noticeable.

To end the tasting, I had a beignet, which is something like a doughnut, but it is lighter and once fried, is then covered with powdered sugar. I liked that it wasn't too sweet, as well as how light it was, I could easily get hooked on those as much as I am on their beer batter cauliflower.


Casey Hamilton and Martin James, my cocktail magicians

Head Chef  Roel Bennett with Magnolia Cafe owner Zahra Thompson
In chatting with Zahra Thompson, the owner of Magnolia Cafe, she said that she wanted to have a place with good food, that wasn't too fancy, with drinks of high quality. She also loves a good brunch. and shared that Magnolia was originally supposed to me more of a place where you can buy your meals and drinks to go, but that morphed into the restaurant that she has today. In talking about the food and drinks, she praised both culinary team and her bartenders for their work. 

Overall, based on what she wanted in her cafe, I'd say that she and her team definitely hit the nail on the head. From the food and drinks, to the decor and everything in between, all aspects of Magnolia Cafe were meticulously thought out and executed well. 


Added bonus: This lovely parting gift. Unexpected, but appreciated nonetheless. I can tell that the Magnolia Cafe team aim to ensure that their customers have a wonderful experience. I sure did. And trust and believe, I will be back very soon. After all, my birthday is about a week away. *Throws hint for loving husband who will probably read this at some point*

Want more information on Magnolia Cafe? Then check out their Facebook and Instagram. If you decide to go dine, tell them I sent you.



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