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Aug 17, 2009 07:36 PM

Swirl (Leslieville)

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..?)

--- -- food. is. love.

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  1. Thanks for the review and the reminder. Read about this place a couple of months ago in the Star and have since forgotten about it. Is the space comfy and cool enough in this weather? Were you there on a weeknight or weekend? How busy was the place?

    2 Replies
    1. re: tuttebene

      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.

      1. re: jlunar

        Thanks for the details. Much appreciated.

    2. I'm in the hood but have only been to Swirl once - which is a shame b/c both my BF and I really enjoyed the food and the space. Thanks for the reminder! :-)

      6 Replies
      1. re: JennaBean

        No problem!

        Selfishly, I really want it to survive. I feel they fit a nice niche (you know, the one I'm in). And they're open late, which is always a plus in my books!

        1. re: jlunar

          i've been once, kinda like black hoof lite! great selection of wine and it's fun delving into charcuterie/cheese!

          1. re: jlunar

            Do you feel like it is redundant with Pic Nic at all? If not, what sets it apart?

            1. re: drjolt

              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.

              1. re: JennaBean

                food was o.k.
                wine was great but it felt like I was in a dolls house

                1. re: deepee

                  Fair enough. The decor/space isn't for everyone but I loved it. And I prefer the food over Pic Nic the only thing similar in my hood.

        2. 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.

          2 Replies
          1. re: jgloverwork

            agreed, it is pretty girl. and in general, the space is ... cozy.

            I'm still really sad I haven't gotten the Chicken Liver Pate. Should be back in by now though! She was supposed to get a shipment on Sunday... a day too late for me!

            1. re: jgloverwork

              I'm going tonight and really looking forward to it! I have only been to Pic Nic once, but I had a really positive experience there, for the record. My server, who was an older male, was wonderful.

            2. 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.

              1. As I mentioned on the Closings thread, their last day will be June 27, 2014. Never made a visit though passed by many times.