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Convival but Chattable Downtown

My husband and I are meeting up with a long-lost friend who's visiting Toronto from London this weekend. We'd like to take him somewhere for dinner with great food and a stylish atmosphere, but would prefer the volume to be low enough (and service just slow enough) for us to be able to catch up. I was thinking Lee for food and atmo, but was concerned it might be too loud. Would prefer nothing overtly extravagant, but otherwise budget's not really an issue. Any ideas? Thanks!

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  1. I'd pick JKWB (which is often suggested on this board). It's not "sceney" so you can actually hear what the other people at the table are saying. Would probably choose a table vs. sitting at the bar for this occasion.

    6 Replies
    1. re: caddie

      second JKWB. this is where i went to catch up with a British friend that visited Toronto :) we sat in the dining area instead of the bar. noise level was fine, no shouting, but also didn't feel like people next to us would pick up on everything we said.

      1. re: auberginegal

        Thanks caddie and auberginegal. That's a good suggestion - haven't been in awhile - In the event it's not possible to get one of the limited reservations (I'll likely be deferring a decision as late as I can!), what kind of wait times would you be looking at sometime between 7 & 8 on a Saturday?

        1. re: urbnmns

          Pretty sure their reservation policy is "normal" now - call to double check though!

          1. re: caddie

            I'm not sure what the rez policy is now at JKWB, but they used to take cell phone numbers, and even though Saturday dinner is a potentially busy slot, you can be much palliated by anticipating a wait and pre-planning a cocktail stop. You could easily duck into Pravda, Lucien or even C'est What or Biff's if you just needed user-friendly bar while waiting for your table.

            1. re: Rabbit

              Great suggestion Rabbit (I did think cocktails would be in order!) Would you be in a position to recommend Lucien for a meal? (I've never been.)

              1. re: urbnmns

                I'm not... but it's top of my list (and I hope to get there next weekend)... I'm eager for all reports.

    2. Lee or Thuet is great....Lee is very toronto...Thuet is an Alsatian version of Toronto...both memorable...Miranda

      1 Reply
      1. re: miranda

        Thanks Miranda, for another evening with people I see more regularly, Lee is great. For some reason, the service at Thuet (which I've only been to for brunch) really grated on me and I haven't been in a hurry to go back. But thanks for the suggestions.

      2. Try Lolitas Lust on the Danforth. It's exactly what you want!

        Here's a link: http://livingstoncooks.blogspot.com/2...

        5 Replies
        1. re: Chef Marko

          Thanks CM! Great thought. I haven't been in forever (I used to live around the corner and now I don't). I agree, it's really laid back, the food is (or at least used to be) terrifically savoury, and you can hang out and chat for pretty much as long as you like. I also like that you can mix up and match the sides (good for the veg-folk!). I'm still leaning further toward something I haven't tried in the downtown core but do you know whether LL is busy these days?

          1. re: urbnmns

            I really wouldn't suggest Lolita's Lust based on my one and only experience there for a birthday party last May (which may or may not be a fair representation). The place was dead, the food was ho-hum and overpriced for what you got. On the other hand, Tomi-Kro has fantastic food (I believe that's where LL's former chef has ended up) but I don't think it's the quiet atmosphere you're looking for.

            1. re: caddie

              I have been there twice and both times were good experiences for me. I looked at the over all perception of the place and took all things into considersation. I still like the place.

              Marko

            2. re: urbnmns

              To be honest with you, I haven't been there since November and it was busy both times I have been in.

            3. re: Chef Marko

              Be aware that on the weekends Lolita's turns into a "mini club" sort of scene later at night with people there for cocktails only and a dj. I don't know what time but we have dropped in for a late drink a few times and it was quite the little party scene.

            4. George has great food, and a stylish atmosphere. I've only eaten outside, on the patio, but it seemed like the volume inside wasn't too loud. I like the food at George better than the food at JKWB. http://www.georgeonqueen.com/menus.html
              It's possible to make a reservation at George through opentable.com.

              1 Reply
              1. re: phoenikia

                very partial to Niagara street cafe for intimate times

              2. Thanks all for the great suggestions. In the end we opted for a painfully early last-minute res at Lucien (which I rationalize will actually be on the late side for someone with and anticipating return flight jet-lag - and ensures our low-din requirement to boot!) Per Rabbit, many spots nearby to extend the evening on a cocktail note if need be. Will post how it goes...

                1. Quick update: Did try Lucien, and it perfectly met our objectives: Friendly, attentive service, lovely bistro-esque atmo & nice food. However, on the food note, I have to say I was a bit disappointed given the level of kudos I've been seeing lately; Rabbit, I noticed you quite enjoyed Colborne Lane and I have to say Lucien's execution (at least on this visit) simply does not compare to my recent meal at CL, which I would revisit any day. Lucien's execution of individual elements was beyond reproach, but the overall flow of most dishes we tried simply did not cohere. Too bad, but perhaps it's partly a case of inflated expectations. But as mentioned above, perfect for the kind of night we were looking for, where the food did take a back seat to the company. Very glad we tried it, but I'm in no hurry to go back.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: urbnmns

                    I 100% agree with everything you've said based on two visits to Lucien (most recently being Fri. night) and two visits to CL. I'd go to CL anyday, but I'd need a whole lot of convincing for me to try Lucien again...

                    1. re: Delish

                      Amazing how it's such a fine line!

                    2. re: urbnmns

                      Hmmm, I'm signed up for Lucien on Saturday. I'm still excited about going, but I'll try to re-calibrate my expectations so that I don't end up disappointed. Despite Toronto Life's ratings, it seems most around here put CL (which I did think was quite special) ahead of Lucien.

                      1. re: Rabbit

                        Rabbit, I hope your meal tops mine! I'd be interested to hear your impressions.