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Swirl Wine Bar

Photo: Eugen Sakhnenko

Posted by Jessica McGann / October 20, 2009

Swirl Wine Bar is a unique destination in Leslieville that puts me in mind of first dates. I can't help feeling that it is impressive to know about because it is secretive, unusual and classy. I asked my companion if he would be impressed if I had suggested it, were we on a first date, and together we decided that a day of fun activity followed by an evening nightcap at cozy and elegant Swirl was a foolproof recipe for presenting yourself as a dynamic and interesting person. That's a free tip for you, daters!

Located above a pet supply store called The Bone House in what was once a tiny one-bedroom apartment, Swirl is treading into the kind of real estate territory only hair salons seem to flourish in. In fact, so accustomed am I to our city's standard two-storied buildings, with their street-level retail spaces, and second-storey living spaces, that I felt briefly mortified breaching the top of the staircase, as though I were about to walk into someone's apartment, even though the name "Swirl" was clearly painted on the steps.

Upstairs, design firm Fame has worked hard to make Swirl's space nicer than any tiny one-bedroom you've ever been in before. Cool shades of grey on the wall and on the reclaimed furniture make the space feel bright and a bit prim in a high-tea sort of way. Vintage photos hang on patterned wallpaper, and sumptuous chandeliers hang from the ceiling. In the early evening, the space is bright and cheery. When the sun goes down, it is romantic and quaint.

If the term "wine bar" sounds a bit frou-frou to you, there is nothing to fear at Swirl, where the sommelier has put together a small but well-chosen selection, from which even an unrefined drinker can find a $6 glass or order the bar's singular beer, Theresianer Premium Lager.

One of Swirl's true delights is its menu. Although the former apartment no longer houses a kitchen, Swirl sidesteps the issue with the kind of initiative and efficiency that would make your boss proud. Chef Joan Olsen (Brassaii) whips up a selection of pates, spreads, and even desserts that are stored and served in tiny Mason jars, available for $6 each. Since there's no kitchen, it never closes, which means you can enjoy dishes like marinated olives, duck confit, or delicious Stilton and Caramelized Apple over baguette right up until the bar closes.

Elbow-to-elbow on busy nights, you'll surely make friends with some of your neighbours if you're a Leslieville local. It's friendly and laidback, but more elegant than your average watering hole. Wear anything that makes you look academic and channel the movie Sideways and you'll really be in the right frame of mind. And if you're going there on a first date, well... remember to do something adventurous first, and then you can thank me in your wedding speech.

Writing by Jessica McGann

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
Signature Drink:
Bar Snacks:
Pate, spreads, cheese and charcuterie platters, pickled quail eggs, desserts in jars
Eclectic '80s, '90s and contemporary hits
Live Music:
Who Goes There:
Wine enthusiasts, foodies, established Leslieville locals
Sun, Wed & Thurs, 5pm to 12am. Fri & Sat, 5pm to 2am.

Other Cities: Montreal