Lucy Brock is a new bar at Dundas and Dufferin courtesy of Ryan McVittie , the folks behind Parkdale's Motel (Daniel Greaves and Lisa Black) and Elizabeth Davies. A small but impressive space, it feels very "now" and yet also insulated from trendiness. That's not the easiest thing to pull off, but it you stop by, you'll know what I mean. Named after the woman behind the building of nearby Brock Street, the place is designed to be a "neighbourhood bar." And despite having been open for just over a week, it appears to have already acquired a few regulars who've made multiple visits — myself included.
Part of the appeal here lies in the McVittie, the face behind the operation. A veteran of Toronto's hospitality scene, he's the type of bartender who remembers faces and can make quick conversation with just about anyone. On the two occasions that I've popped in, customers gather around the bar in favour of the seating area at the front, casually chatting with one another about politics, the neighbourhood and the light fixtures.
Why the latter? Because they're kind of awesome. Re-purposed streetlights (possibly from a freeway?), for a second they look out of place indoors, until you stop and just admire the incongruous juxtaposition. McVittie and his friend Sean Kondra worked away at the space since its acquisition in March, gutting what was formerly a Thai restaurant. With exposed brick, ample reclaimed wood, and a bartop filled with 25,000 pennies, the only remaining tie to the former tenant is the restaurant's sign, which is slated to come down any day now.
On the two nights that I've stopped by it's been relatively quiet, which is understandable given that the place is yet to have its opening party (scheduled to happen in the next couple of weeks). That said, when one looks out of the floor to ceiling front windows, it's difficult not to notice that those passing by invariably peer inside and take note of the new addition to the neighbourhood. I would expect that as word gets out, there will be a steady stream of traffic through the door.
Aside from the aesthetics of the space and convivial atmosphere, I make this prediction based on the quality of the booze on offer. Although the cocktail list is still being shored up, McVittie knows how to mix a drink, as evidence by the pitch-perfect Old Fashioned ($11) he cooked up for me. While it's not the most difficult cocktail to make, I tend to evaluate bartenders on the quality of their version of this classic drink. So often they're served too sweet, over-filled with ice or without enough bitters. Not so here.
Other cocktails are more elaborate, featuring fresh ginger, cucumber and mint. Basically if you want it, McVittie can do it. Which, you know, is how it's supposed to be. The wine list is short but decent, from which I tried a Norman Hardie Pinot Noir ($12), one of my favourite Ontario wineries . In the beer department, look for the four taps to rotate with at least two local craft offerings alongside Grolsch and other imports.
Having just opened, there's still a fair amount in store at Lucy Brock. DJs are set to make an appearance on weekends, a menu of small plates is in the works, and there might even be a piano at some point in the future. But most of the important stuff is already in place in the form of the casual vibe and the the top notch cocktails.