Nespresso, the flagship Toronto boutique and cafe from the international coffee magnate opened last week where the Cumberland Cinemas used to be. The space, transformed by Italian architect Goring and Straja SRL is unrecognizable from its past life as a theatre. Now, the sleek and vibrant coffee bar, lounge and showroom boast a polished and bright interior, impressive high ceilings and a dangling metallic chandelier.
For a retail shop it's quite grand but as a cafe it's yet to be seen if the locals will embrace it. It's beautiful but also heavily branded, so even when sitting in the lounge upfront it's hard to forget that $600 coffee machines (median price) are being peddled in the periphery.
The neighbourhood is already highly caffeinated. In fact, there's more than a dozen places to get your fix without crossing a light. The European-based brand saw Yorkville to be inline with the posh global addresses of its other boutiques like the Champs-Elysees location in Paris.
I can't help but wonder who the store is for? Is the ambition to glean tourists with international recognition? Or, maybe they're after visiting 905ers buying up the convenient machines for the office, the house and the cottage? They don't do coffee to go (which is weird by my North American sensibilities), ruling out local workers and dog owners.
At the door a receptionist seats guests and offers a menu dedicated to coffee based beverages, plus breakfasts, savoury plates and sweets from chef Jean-Charles Dupoire of Loire Restaurant.
There is a Croque-Monsieur ($16) layered with sliced ham, gruyere and truffle bechamel sauce sandwiched between toasted challah and covered with melted cheese. On the side comes a mix of root vegetable chips. While tasty, the price seems absurd even by Yorkville standards... for goodness sake, it's a ham and cheese!
Vegetarian options include a Quinoa Kale Salad ($14) mixed with raisins, bell peppers, herbs and apple maple dressing. Or, there is a Goat Cheese and Mushroom Quiche ($12) served alongside a simple green salad.
At the coffee bar there is the option to try Nespresso's 21 Grand Cru coffees which range in intensity and boldness per different degrees of roast. A single shot cost $4, a double goes for $5, or, there is the option to have hot or cold specialty drinks ($4-7).
Desserts might be the best bet; an espresso and petit four pairing is $6. Stunning sweets like the Nougat Glace ($10) feature frozen soft meringue with crushed pistachios, shaved dark chocolate and berries over a base of passion fruit syrup.
The showroom also boasts an iPad bar (yet to be installed), a machine gallery and a recycling depot for the Grand Cru capsules.
The Nespresso boutique bar is open weekdays from 9am to 9pm, on Saturdays from 10am to 7pm and on Sundays from 11am to 6pm.
Photos by Morris Lum