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Restaurants

Midfield Wine Bar & Tavern

Posted by Derek Flack / Reviewed on February 23, 2012 / review policy

Midfield Wine Bar & TavernMidfield Wine Bar and Tavern is the type of place that Toronto wine lovers have been hoping would open for a long time. With a few exceptions — notably Swirl and Mavrik — this city just hasn't embraced what many would consider the true ethos of the wine bar. The majority of our establishments that go by this name would be better described as restaurants that offer unique or extensive wine programs with ample by-the-glass options. Places like Enoteca Sociale, Crush and Reds fit this bill, as does the Local to a lesser extent. They're great places to drink wine, just not at midnight on a Saturday.

Midfield Wine Bar & TavernMidfield, which recently opened at the northwest corner of Dundas and Gladstone, on the other hand, is very much a bar — one at which patrons can be content to focus solely on the wine, whether this be in the form of a couple glasses in the early evening or a more extended session over the course of the night. I suspect that this will remain the case, even as the bar phases in more extensive food options than the meats and cheeses currently on offer. A Mediterranean-inspired tapas menu is on the way in about a month or so, but one that co-owner and sommelier Christopher Sealy assures me "will be engineered to complement the wine rather than the other way around." To maintain the tavern vibe, the plan is to offer the menu all the way to last call.

Midfield Wine Bar & TavernFor now, Midfield's selection of meats and cheeses (three for $14, five for $22) hints at what's to come. Sourced mostly from Italy (meats) and France (cheeses), as a spread, they're the perfect accompaniment to the fruit-forward wines that make up the bulk of the wine list. The highlights of my sample are the almost candied Chorizo, the perfectly thin Bresaola and the Ossau-iraty, the latter of which is one of the best sheep's milk cheeses I've ever tasted. Surprisingly creamy, it also has nutty character that defies its light colouration. Not surprisingly, Sealy later tells me that it's one of his all-time favourites.

Midfield Wine Bar and TavernSo what about that wine? As good as everything else is — and the warmly lit, unfussy room is pitch perfect — the wine is the pillar upon which this whole operation is perched. Toward that end, I'd say Midfield hits all the right notes as well. Not a place where you'll find a wide array of Bordeaux, Chianti or even Côtes du Rhône, the focus here is on lesser known regions and varietals. I'm thinking of wines from J & J Eger in Hungary, a variety of small producers in the Languedoc region, and apparent oddities like New Zealand Rieslings.

Midfield Wine Bar and TavernWhen it comes to cost, the list is broken down into three main price points — $35/$9, $45/$12 and $55/$14 (glass prices approximate) — with featured wines thrown into the mix on a nightly basis. There's also some reserve stuff hanging around, but there's no dedicated menu for these yet, and they make up a fraction of what's on site. Everything is available by the glass, so the menu beckons for exploration without asking for a full-bottle of commitment.

Midfield Wine Bar and Tavern"I can recommend each of the wines on the list, but I like it when the customers make the choice," Sealy tells me during a chat we have on my second visit to Midfield. True to this commitment, it's common to see him pour tastes of wine to those labouring over their decision. In fact, he seems to do this with almost everyone, which I suspect has as much to do with his desire to get to know his clientele as his obvious enthusiasm for wine.

Midfield Wine Bar and TavernThis highly engaged service is something that he and partner Giuseppe Anile hope will come to define Midfield, which is named after the all-important position in soccer. "The midfielder is the one who orchestrates the game," Sealy explains. Similarly, he and Anile hope to foster a lively scene in which wine and well-paired food bring people together. Based on my early visits, they're already ahead of the game when it comes to this goal.

Midfield is open Tuesday to Saturday 5 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS

Midfield Wine Bar and TavernMidfield Wine Bar and TavernMidfield Wine Bar and TavernPhotos by Jesse Milns and the author

Discussion

33 Comments

Derek / February 23, 2012 at 10:42 am
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It's not lost on me that our decision to file this review in our restaurants section tends to go against the idea that Midfield has more of a bar-like vibe. Given the plans to serve a full tapas menu, however, it jut seemed worth archiving it in a place where prospective diners will find it more easily. Besides, the whole tavern idea kind of covers this distinction off, anyway.
Paul / February 23, 2012 at 10:56 am
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Personally I find the restaurant/bar/cafe distinctions here to be often confusing and a barrier to finding places I'm looking for (the Beaver is another good boundary-crossing example).

This place sounds pretty great, and not too far from home for me. I will have to check it out.
PDG / February 23, 2012 at 11:23 am
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Um, what's with the bars on the windows? Who designed the space?
Anon / February 23, 2012 at 11:29 am
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yeah, the bars on the windows totally turned me off.
R-Side / February 23, 2012 at 11:30 am
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Swirl Wine Bar.
Book it.
Grant / February 23, 2012 at 12:14 pm
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Did they put bars on the windows so people would
know it's a wine bar? ba da boom.

danielle / February 23, 2012 at 12:41 pm
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Wow, that brutal exterior totally belies the warmth and old-timey-ness of the interior. You really can't judge a book by its cover! Looking forward to checking this place out.
Vino / February 23, 2012 at 12:52 pm
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Now i'm thirsty.
Ben replying to a comment from PDG / February 23, 2012 at 01:07 pm
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I think they were there when this place was O Campino, but it probably doesn't hurt to keep them given the rows of expensive wines available inside.
Mike / February 23, 2012 at 01:46 pm
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Sounds like a good place, one which is thankfully nicely near me. You mentioned that they tend to shy away from more traditional regions (Rhone, Bordeaux etc.) does this mean that the majority of the wines are special order and are thus not available at the LCBO?
Tim / February 23, 2012 at 02:07 pm
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It's Dundas Street. The bars are part of the charm.
EveryonesOpinion / February 23, 2012 at 02:14 pm
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Ya the bars throw me off a bit as well but that won't stop me from trying out a new place
ian / February 23, 2012 at 02:55 pm
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usually bars/taverns aren't permitted to have windows to the outside world...
Jennsanerd / February 23, 2012 at 06:56 pm
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This place sounds lovely. I got the idea that the blogger had a genuine experience here and clearly had a lot of good things to say. To me, a proper review of an establishment is when the writer engages with the owner.

I'll definitely be visiting this bar. Thanks for a great review.
Mark / February 24, 2012 at 01:53 pm
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I'm keen. Perfect place for apres skate or campfire in Dufferin Grove Park.

But I agree with the others - ditch the bars!
Teddy / February 24, 2012 at 11:24 pm
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Where the ladies at? Looks like more like a sausage fest than a wine bar to me.
Yvonne / February 26, 2012 at 10:35 am
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Really wanted to love this place but...there is no warmth. If you call flashing neons lights on your face warmth. Lack of effort in the decor. There are some nice elements like the chalkboard/iwine glass shelf at the back. And sure the wine is great but the overall experience made me leave after a glass. Look, I know we're on Dundas. Great urban feel. But doesn't make me actually feel like I want to sit in the middle of it. Neither a tavern nor wine bar feel. Just weird.
K.O / February 27, 2012 at 11:20 pm
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Oh my God, a wine bar called "Midfield" ! add a TV screen on the weekend to show the best of European soccer and I can finally have the best of both worlds, great wine and quality soccer. Now that is definitely a more civilized way for a girl to enjoy her Spanish league soccer with hopefully a wicked Rioja on the list...yum!
BT / February 28, 2012 at 04:50 pm
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Is that mortadella on the meat and cheese board? Blech. Do they serve Baby Duck out of a paper bag, too?
L E / February 28, 2012 at 09:42 pm
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Midfield is so great. Who cares about the bars on the windows, drink a glass of wine on the inside and relax. Since going last week I've been dyeing to get back, the wine selection was great, I thoroughly enjoyed a few glasses of wine I've never had before. Great addition to Toronto's selection of bars.
P / February 29, 2012 at 02:43 pm
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People. The bars where there before. Relax.
SGM / March 1, 2012 at 08:48 pm
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For the record the Mortadella is fantastic!. If you think that Mortadella is in the same league as Baby Duck in a paper bag you have never had REAL mortadella. Try it; you will be swayed.
Imant Malins / March 2, 2012 at 01:17 am
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First of all.If you know the hood, the bars where there before,yes they want to do the "tapas"thing, a friend of mine did all the work in the space, they have one of the best small wine lists in town,they have the best charcrutre selections,and if I get my way they will have the best smoked salmon you have ever tasted.
I will drive from Niagara for a joint like this.
jackie besteman replying to a comment from Teddy / March 13, 2012 at 08:02 am
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Yes where are the ladies? Nice photos but not one woman in sight?????I find it strange.
H / March 15, 2012 at 01:57 am
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I am a lady and I will be there soon.
Lani / March 31, 2012 at 03:35 am
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Love this place. If you actually want to try AMAZING wine at an unpretentious place, this is it! I love going to Mid field. I'm always welcome at any time.. I get off work pretty late and there is always a late night snack and a delicious glass of wine waiting for me. I have to say... it doesn't seem like anyone that has posted comments on this blog have actually gone there or even care about wine... Obviously this place really isn't for you kids.
JL / April 20, 2012 at 03:53 pm
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I've been to this place and it's extremely friendly, welcoming and unpretentious. My friends and I, not knowing anything about wine, asked our server to surprise us with some wine choices. He came back with some nice varieties and described them perfectly. We really enjoyed the snack platter too. This place is great for a nice low-key night out with your pals.
R / May 7, 2012 at 11:30 am
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This is a great spot. No pretense. Just a nice atmosphere, friendly service, good music and good wine.
Rick Frazer / January 16, 2013 at 10:30 pm
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Liked the wine, atmosphere, food and the service but being on a date... all was lost when on the coldest day I had to leave her at the bar to go find an ATM as they only accepted cash. Seeing that it wasn't a busy Saturday night it would have been nice if the server could have informed us of the lack of payment options. As a customer I find this unacceptable these days.
Mikey D / January 30, 2013 at 11:13 am
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Congrats Midfield on being voted Best Wine Bar. Blogto got it right. The Monarch Tavern salutes you!
Terry replying to a comment from Grant / January 30, 2013 at 12:25 pm
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Good one, Grant! I feel like I'm being called to the bar -- gotta check out this cozy wine bar.
Kelley / January 31, 2013 at 09:24 am
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I love the owners and I love this place...see you soon
RTG replying to a comment from Anon / February 3, 2013 at 07:06 pm
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haha.... yah. those bars at the windows make me feel like i just arrived in the ghetto...

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