Surprised there's been no mention of this place. I've been twice now (see blog/flickr), and this place is pretty fun and well-priced. Really enjoyed the concept and the execution is well done. I also like that they're open late and when talking to the manager/owner Janean, she says she'll always be open the posted hours - which is nice.
So basically, there's no kitchen. It's just jars of pate and pickles ($6), so don't expect to eat a full meal. However, as snacks and nibbles to supplement your drinks, it does just fine. Really fine, in fact.
Of liquid note: the $7 Malbec is very drinkable and the Chamomile-infused Grappa is phenomenally good. And I really don't like Grappa. Also, I am a drink noob, so...
Of solid note: I really liked the Stilton & caramelized apple (though my DC did not). The smoked salmon & goat cheese was also yummy. I also wish they'd sell the garlic found in the pickled mushrooms separately. Bread was a bit stale the first time I went, but perfectly fine the second time (a week later). Maybe she took our advice (or we were unlucky the first time). The chocolate cake was serviceable and reminded me of box cake. Both the Chicken Liver Pate and Creme Caramel were out the times I went.
I was less excited about the chacuterie ($15). However, the cheese board ($15) had nice selections. Nothing crazy, but solid. From the Leslieville cheese market down the street. Nice touch.
Between the nibbles, drinks, and super price-point, (food is $1, $6 & $15), Swirl is really easy to return to. It's a tiiiiny apartment above a pet store (next to Reliable), so I'd call ahead for a group of 5+
Swirl Wine Bar - 946 Queen St. East, Toronto
(and hey, is the "link to a place" broken? can't add new places anymore..?)
http://www.foodpr0n.com/ -- food. is. love.
Went on a Saturday, both nights. First time was pretty empty/slow, second night was quite busy, though not 100% full. Maybe 1-2 two-tops left in front and the big room in the back.
You're sitting on wooden chairs and benches, depending on which side of the table you're seated. I found it comfortable on the bench, haven't tried the chairs. No one complained about it, so I'd say they're all right.
No A/C, but they did have fans, so keep that in mind on the really toasty days. You could feel it getting warmer as you climbed the stairs last Saturday. Still, comfortable enough once seated and you got acclimated. The first Saturday I went it was rainy and perfect, probably affecting the numbers.
In general the atmosphere is relaxed. I've found that cross-table talking does occur in varying levels because of the closeness of the tables and just the mood of the room.
I've been to both and althought some may disagree prefer Swirl for a few reasons.
1. I've been to Pic Nic a few times (it is a five min walk from my house) and aI always get Attitude with a capital "A" from a blonde woman who is always working everytime I go
2. I prefer the laid back casual feeling for Swirl
3. Most importantly I think the food is better over all. I only went once but we tried almost everything they had to offer and thought it was all delightful, tasty well-prepared and good value for money. That's not true of all of the items I've tried at Pic Nic.
Thanks for starting a post about Swirl. I've been three times since it's opened: once alone with the wife, and twice with other couples.
As mentioned in most posts, the wine list is short but interesting and very reasonably priced. A jar (a little more than a glass) of their house is $6.00 and most other offerings fall in the $7-9 range. Both the Malbec and the Torrontes were very nice.
As for the food, the hands-down favourite was the Chicken Liver Pate. It's delicious and worked well with both the white and red selections. We've also sampled the salmon and goat cheese (which was nice), and the duck confit rillette (which had a nice hit of thyme, but overall the flavour was too mild).
The staff are very accommodating.
The prices are better than Pic-Nic and the food is more interesting, in my opinion. The cheese and meat selections at both are pretty standard (but good) offerings from Leslieville Cheese, but the homemade jarred options at Swirl are better than anything I've had at Pic-Nic.
The only thing I'd want to mention is that the decor very much suits a couples or all-girls evening, but it's not a place that I would hit for a one-on-one with a guy friend. There is no question that it has an overwhelmingly feminine vibe.
Very pleased with my first visit. I was able to try some interesting glasses of wine that were new to me. The food was quite good and a perfect match for the setting. The chicken liver pate was about the best thing I've ever tasted. I can usually handle pate only in small quantities, but we were licking the jar clean. They were out of the duck rillettes so subbed with pork rillettes. The flavor was lovely but it was a bit too dry. Then the stilton & caramelized apples - good, not great. Unfortunately, our bread was stale.
The decor is cute. Seating is uncomfortable and temperature is not managed well at all. The gendered comment was right on - the place was about 2/3 full, nary a man in sight. Overall, great place to stop by for wine and nibbles. I will definitely be returning.