Review: Furlough, BarChef’s sister spot, brings more cocktail nerdery to Queen West
924 Queen St. W., 647-348-2525
The new bar-bistro on Queen West, in the space formerly occupied by Ursa, is a marvel of cocktail nerdery. The co-owner, Frankie Solarik, introduced Toronto to $20, chemistry-experiment tipples in the mid-oughties at clubby BarChef and wrote the book on mixology (called, unsurprisingly, The Bar Chef). The new venture is far more laid back, like a moody beaux arts–era drinking salon that serves excellent rustic food. (The dim, dim, dim—seriously, download the flashlight app on your phone before you go—candlelight nails the pre-electricity mood.)
The intriguing drinks (there are 30 on offer) also seem to have emerged less from a futuristic lab and more from a 19th-century apothecary stocked with obscure tinctures. The Juniper Harvest, for example, stirs London dry gin with star anise syrup, apricot bitters and sweet vermouth in an orange blossom–rinsed wine glass that channels the scents upward. You could easily drop $100 sampling them, alongside snacks like snap peas tossed with sticky, sweet pomegranate sauce and crunchy almonds, or hollandaise-drenched lobster tail on buttery pain au lait. But hearty mains, like lush duck confit on sweet braised red cabbage, or deep black, salty squid ink risotto with golden seared scallops, are entirely worth it, too. Classic crème brûlée makes a killer pairing for a savoury-sweet Apricot Fields, which shakes apricot-infused brandy, lemon, rosemary syrup, amaretto and madeira over ice.