Marcy opened very quietly just over two weeks ago and I first noticed it as a demure, hand-painted wooden sign hanging above the space that Lala Bistro used to occupy at 145 Roncesvalles. Evidently, it's been gathering a sparse clientele on word-of-mouth alone.
It's not quite what I would've expected from vintage purveyor Catherine Huizenga of Mrs. Huizenga a few doors down, who purchased the space and brought on bartender Vanessa Handford (formerly of Goodnight ). I've always respected the shop's stock, and expected better curation in the bar's decor.
Inside, the space is almost eye-achingly dim, with floral-painted glass wall sconces and lights turned down. The room's highlight is immediately evident: a retro Rock-old jukebox that provides the bar's music and a fair portion of its Technicolor fluorescence. There's an overabundance of dark wood in the wall panelling and the tables, and the booth benches are lined in fabric printed with old comic strips.
The rest of the decor is almost schizophrenic, from the kitschy pastoral painting, to the tabletop tea candles in white semi-transparent mugs, to the absurd framed needlepoint in the washrooms. Two men arm wrestle good-naturedly and almost fall off their mismatched chairs with curlicued backs, and the bar's many long mirrors make it easy to check others or yourself out.
At almost midnight on a Saturday, the crowd is thin, tipsy, and tellingly local, but Handford is a sight to be behold, working the room as the only bartender and waitress. She's quick to recommend her signature cocktails, each hallelujah-inducingly cheap at $8.50. The flavours are all there, but The Quinn's honey vodka gets lost under a heavy dose of lychee liquor and blackberries, and the Blood Orange Manhattan goes down as a bruisingly hard shot of liquor.
Draught beers are $6.50, with Beau's Lagered Ale and IPA as an especially nice surprise. There's a selection of "big Polish beers" such as Zywiec and Tyskie for $6, bottles of Mill St. for $5, and a specialty shot fittingly named The Lawn ($9) that mixes herbal Polish vodka with a glass of freshly-squeezed kale, pineapple and mango juice.
I quickly develop a love-hate relationship with the jukebox. It's a beautiful throwback to a sense of musical spontaneity and democracy that's no longer seen amongst strangers at a bar. When a good song is on, the mood lifts and Michael Jackson sends hums echoing through the room. But when the jukebox falls silent, conversation stills and people grow self-conscious.
There are munchies such as chips and peanuts, and Lala Bistro's old sign hangs across from the bar, as much a nod to the neighbourhood's Polish population as the cold plate of pickles, salmon and kolbassa on offer. For now, Marcy feels unfinished, but once all the kinks are ironed out, it might well start drawing crowds beyond late-night Roncesvalles pedestrians.