Tony and I had our first Winterlicious outing to Toula on Friday night. I forgot how crazy Winterlicious restaurants can be, because we arrived for our 7:30pm for our reservation and the restaurant was PACKED. I don't imagine that Toula is normally that busy, known more for the view than the food (situated on the 38th floor of the Westin Harbour Castle). The hostess told us there would be a bit of a wait because patrons were staying beyond their 2 hours; while I was ok to wait, I am generally put off by that excuse. While I understand they cannot force people out, it is up to the restaurant to manage the situation and gently remind patrons their reservation is up. There is some good news to this story: Toula understood how to manage the chaos that seemingly overwhelmed them. Waiting patrons were offered glasses of champagne for the wait, a small but welcome gesture to make up for the inconvenience of waiting despite a reservation; bread and water also arrived as soon as we sat down, which helped ease the wait to place our order. The waiter was friendly and by all means making the best of the situation and the effort is appreciated - we want to know people are trying!
Despite the initial wait, our food did come quickly. I think on a normal night, Toula is probably better quality than we had, they seem to have the right foundation - reliable, and accompanied by an amazing view of the city. I had a seafood salad to start, with giant prawns and scallop, and Tony had a mushroom salad with polenta. For mains, I had tagliolini with lobster, and Tony had lamb. My pasta was just average with little discernable pieces of lobster, but I could tell the pasta was fresh. Tony's lamb was quite delicious, but not extraordinary. We could tell the base quality is there but it seemed the food was being produced en masse in the kitchen, sacrificing a bit of quality and perhaps any uniqueness.
Toula probably did not do itself any favours participating in Winterlicious as the crowded restaurant took away from the fine-dining charm, but they held their own and managed to feed everyone promptly. For $35, the food was acceptable, and in the end, we can't say we were disappointed, just not amazed.