Bandshell Café

Situated in the west end of Exhibition Place grounds, the Bandshell Café overlooks the beautiful Rose Gardens amidst the backdrop of Lake Ontario. The restaurant first opened as a tea garden in 1961 and continues to operate as a food destination all year round. Photo courtesy of the Canadian National Exhibition Archives, taken during the 1961 CNE.

During the 1960s, the CNE Board and the City of Toronto saw the need for a rest spot at the western end of the grounds for CNE visitors. In 1961 the CNE Board received a proposal to build a tea garden south of the Bandshell from the Canadian company Salada-Shirriff-Horsey Limited.  Shirriff-Horsey, a Canadian company known for jams and marmalades, merged with Salada Tea (another Canadian company) in 1957 to form Salada-Shirriff-Horsey Limited.  The Tea Garden was built that same year and opened in August during the CNE. The building is 5400 square feet and the outside walls are made of Canadian fieldstone.  Its roof features a unique peaked design.

Salada-Shirriff-Horsey’s vision for the tea garden included two main purposes: First, it would provide a public showcase of Salada at the largest exhibition of its type in the world, and at other functions since it would operate around the year.  Equally important, the Salada Foods Tea Garden would represent a goodwill gift to the community as a rest facility, and by raising nearly $8,000 each CNE for charitable organizations.

The Vice President and General Manager of Salada-Shirriff-Horsey, R. E. Liptrott, stated that “In building the Tea Garden, we believed it would serve as an excellent means of telling the Salada story and, at the same time – and more important – we wanted, as a company, to have a building on the CNE grounds which would benefit the community”.

Public & Industrial Relations Limited, Tea Garden Copy, 1961

The tea garden was to be operated for charitable purposes by non-profit organizations, who in turn would receive all profits.  Tea and biscuits were to be served, donated by the sponsoring organization.  Each day during the CNE, profits from the Tea Garden went to a different woman's charitable group with members of the sponsoring organizations acting as hostesses for the day. The Tea Garden was open during the CNE and on weekends during the "fair weather" season. The Tea Garden was also available for special events throughout the year. 

Salada Foods ceased to sponsor the Tea House in the late 1960s.  In 1968 Dalmar Foods Limited took over the management of the building with the High Noon Restaurant.  The name changed again as Casey’s Restaurant and Tavern in 1978 and continued to operate until 1984.  The name changed to Coaches Corner Restaurant in 1985 and then to Bandshell Café in 1986.   In 2003 the Board of Governors looked at redeveloping the entire Bandshell Park area including the Bandshell Café.  In 2005 a new owner took over the management of the restaurant.  In 2008, the interior of the restaurant underwent a massive renovation and reopened as Gossip Restaurant.  

Today the Bandshell Café is leased to Acqua Dolce (formerly Gossip Restaurant).  For more information please visit Acqua Dolce.