The Grape Lounge
The Grape has been open for 56 days on a strip of Bathurst and Dupont notoriously absent of a bar scene. Steps away from the Vesta Lunch , The Grape's biggest competition comes from the old man pub environs of Mayday Malone's .
Owned by Sal (he only wanted to provide me with first name) who used to be a wine seller in Calgary, The Grape aspires to an intimate lounge feel with its blood red walls, mirrored wall and dark wood. (Previously the space was a shisha bar.) A notable twist is a long bar entirely varnished in blackboard paint, which allows patrons to easily scribble their digits down or play impromptu games of tic-tac-toe.
Tonight on a quiet Tuesday evening, there are a few autumnal drawings of leaves, leaving the small lounge blaring Biggie feeling a little like a kindergartener's classroom. Owner Sal feels like it separates the space from feeling too King West aspirational, though he states proudly "people who own investment firms are my clientele here."
It's obvious that The Grape wants to be a neighbourhood local for the upwardly mobile. Sal has titled a list of 11 martinis after his friends, and plans to book bachelorette parties, CD launches and a James Bond-themed Halloween party in the basement lounge, which is equipped with a dance floor and DJ booth.
His exhaustive wine list is idiosyncratic and innovative, with rare wines from California, Australia and New Zealand ranging from $12 to $19 a glass. (When asked about his pricing, Sal says bluntly, "Do you know how much the houses are worth in this neighbourhood?")
At The Grape, the amicable bartenders Candace and King will pour you a 2009 "6th Sense Syrah" from California's Michael David Winery, or a blueberry and meat juice-scented 2004 Small Gully from Australia's Mr. Black's Concoction, a truly fabulous red The Grape has bottles of. Martinis and mixed drinks are also available, made with care.
I told Sal to make me a cocktail and was served a $12 "Lorenzo" martini in a chilled martini glass with a hot pink sugar-studded rim. Though I was a little insulted to be served such an obvious panty remover (sugar-rims are for sorority sisters and Carrie Bradshaw only), the fuchsia cocktail was a deceptively sweet combination of Hypnotique, Alize and a splash of cranberry juice. And then it knocked me completely on my ass.
The Grape apparently gets popping on the weekends, when the small lounge is crammed with patrons and it turns into a mini-bar dance party. Whether you'd rather experience the bar straight up during the weeknight for a quiet red, or with a twist is up to you.