L'Ouvrier, translated as the worker, is a recent addition to Dundas West at the corner of Palmerston. Once an after-hours club (Crystal) with a wanton past, the restaurant owners have gutted the space to create a sleek design-conscious atmosphere pared with a menu that boasts comfort food to more refined fare.
Monochromatic white with occasional pops of hot pink is an unusual colour scheme that cleverly works for the space - albeit more gallery than neighbourhood cafe. The work of Courtney Wotherspoon adorning the walls is eye-catching and an ingenious use of their renovation detritus. Nothing was wasted, down to the refurbished tables that were once part of the floor boards the lovely ladies of Crystal's would prance upon.
Our meal begins with a heaping plate of scones ($6) with ginger peach preserves and crème fraîche accompanied by Americanos - alas there's no bottomless drip here. The scones have a perfect crumble. Love the crème fraîche but as it turns out this addition becomes a bit overplayed when glancing through the menu.
The Potato Rosti ($13), with smoked salmon, fried shallots and crème fraîche on a bed of arugula, is definitely part of the elevated fare offered. The flavours are all familiar staples of brunch, but the devil is in the execution.
My friend has the fried egg ($13) sandwich with aged cheddar, house smoked bacon and fries. Not to detract from the sandwich, but the fries are the main attraction. They're too light to be cooked in animal fat yet oh-so-crispy.
My french toast ($11) is on par, but perhaps the sourdough could be switched for the thicker eggy gooiness of say challah or brioche. I find it a bit dry due largely to the thinner slices. Except for the Rosti, an addition of a garnish would round out the plating. To me, brunch is an eggy lunch with a side of fruit.
Even though it's technically still morning, our clairvoyant waitress lists the dessert specials and weakens our will power. We decide to split the apple olive oil cake ($7) with maple cream cheese icing. Moist and not overly sweet, the cake is apropos on the first day of autumn and could potentially be re-imagined as a breakfast pastry.
On their website, L'Ouvrier establishes their ethos as juxtaposing refined and natural elements to both the space and menu; in hopes of creating a more accessible fine dining experience - which I believe they accomplished. However, portions need to reflect the price which our table had some discrepancy. Upon perusal of the dinner menu I may be swayed to return; especially for the chef's tasting menu. With only two weeks under their belt, L'Ouvrier's has time to work out some kinks and could give nearby Saving Grace a run for their money.
Photos by Peter Henderson