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Cobourg

I looooove Cabbagetown , but - and no offense to ye olde traditional pubs - Ben Wicks and the House on Parliament are hardly enough incentive to lure me out of my west-end lair and across the city for beer or other fare that could be just as easily had closer to home. But I've a special appreciation for some of the things that make this east-end neighbourhood special; the giant lattes at Jet Fuel , the fascinating chaos of the Menagerie pet store, and the most beautiful houses and streets in the whole city.

If you had asked me last year, I would've told you that the only thing it's missing is the perfect little Cabbagetown bar. Something chic and comfortable and artistic as Cabbagetown itself. But that was before I knew about the Cobourg.

The Cobourg's actually been open for three years, but don't feel bad if you've never noticed it. Like so many bars with unmatched furniture and eclectic art pieces, there is no sign out front. But right across the street from the LCBO on Parliament, a stylish little bar is tucked away that's all class.

Elegantly decked out with stuffed wing-back chairs (you won't find a hard-backed chair here), candlelit wall sconces, and a giant gold-gilded mirror that dominates the wall behind the bar, this small space has such high ceilings that even the enormous painted canvases that fill the walls do nothing to infringe upon the open feeling of the room. Looking around, my companion and I felt that we'd walked into just the place for a couple of sophisticated ladies like ourselves and looked around for a place to sit.

Thing about those wing-back chairs, though, is that they're just slightly too big and too far apart to allow for comfortable conversation. A smaller, more secluded room in the back looked briefly promising, but here too the seating seems to encompass the whole room just enough to defy the possibility of intimate conversation. As there were people in there, who looked up expectantly when we walked in, we felt rather like we'd walked into someone's living room.

We chose, finally, to sit at the bar, where the barstools could be brought close enough together for a little tete-a-tete, except that the distance between stool and bar was so great that we could've rested our chins on the bar with little slackening of our posture.

Seating issues aside, we took our bartender up on her suggestion of a French martini, and the heady mix of pineapple juice, Chambord and champagne soon had us feeling right at home. I was feeling rowdy enough to put my elbows up on the bar, but I couldn't reach it. Besides tasty martinis, spirits and wine are the big sellers at the Cobourg, but Wellington's, Red Leaf and Steam Whistle are on tap for those who prefer the heftier feel of a pint.

From our vantage point at the bar, we eyed the painting for which the bar is named; a desolate, watery scene portraying four figures by a frozen pond, which the bar's owners received as a wedding present. A lovely, haunting piece, it's in good company with the rest of the large-scale, colourful oil paintings that give the bar a gallery feel. The menu isn't extensive, but stuff like cheese plates, pate and edamame are available for snacking in the $5-$20 range. On Fridays, a live DJ plays house, hip hop, and techno music, and on Sunday, there's live jazz.

The seating at the bar may be for giants, but the rest of the Cobourg is ideal for meeting groups of friends at the beginning of an evening, or re-grouping after an event for a nightcap. Dress is casual, but you'll feel more at home in a blazer with jeans or a vintage dress. The atmosphere is chic, comfortable and artistic enough to do Cabbagetown proud, but is particularly worth a visit to see the paintings or when it's standing room only.

Writing by Jessica McGann


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