A Toronto restaurant in the making
There is a place in Paris called Le Petit Fer à Cheval. It’s a beautiful, old little bistro with a marble-top horseshoe bar in the front and a dining area in the back. When I lived in Paris, I spent a lot of time leaning on that bar. I drank demis and looked out onto the street, watching pretty women ride past on bicycles, and thought about having my own place—my own restaurant. I wanted it to be that comfortable, that relaxed. It’s now seven years later, and I finally have my own place. Almost. I have the real estate (on Ossington Avenue just north of Queen Street West) and the name: Union. And even though the space is a shambles now, by opening night—September 15, if I am blessed—it will be perfect.
When I was looking for a storefront for the restaurant, the first thing I checked for was whether there was enough room for a horseshoe bar in the front: a spot where you can walk in off the street and get a demi or coffee in a minute, or a plate of charcuterie, or a baguette. 72 Ossington has that. It was once a karaoke bar. When I first walked in, the tinted windows, wall-to-wall mirrors, drop ceiling and fake leather bar (complete with aquarium) just about gave me a panic attack. But I could see the potential. It’s on the ground floor of a beautiful turn-of-the-century townhouse, with high ceilings. My cousins and I are doing most of the work ourselves. We’ve stripped it down to the old red brick and opened it up. We found a kid’s newspaper comic strip from 1942 stashed in the floorboards. So far, we have ripped, banged, pulled, smashed, hauled out and sorted over 10 tons of drywall, ceiling tiles and wood, as well as another five tons of plaster-coated cement that we banged off the walls (the old pot-bellied recycling guy picked up a piece of it with disgust and said, “Yep, I’ve seen this shit before”).
I can see where the horseshoe will be. Behind it will be the dining area and an open kitchen with a curved bar to sit around. Then, past that, you can walk through to a big, leafy patio. But we aren’t even close to the end product yet. My cousins and I just spent the day sledgehammering ugly tiles off the bathroom floor in a dust-filled basement on a hot, muggy day. It’s the last bit of gutting to be done, and banging those damn tiles off took away a lot of my stress and fear about what I have gotten myself into. That was, at least, until my cousin put a shovel through a copper water pipe.