Stepping into The Gaslight is something of a relief. The sparsely populated area around Bloor and Symington feels a far cry from the relatively bustling Bloor and Lansdowne neighbourhood. The nearest other watering hole here is a strip club. Thankfully, The Gaslight is a cozy haven, and I don't think it's any kind of a misrepresentation to say that it's a welcome addition to an area increasingly filling with young professionals and families.
Intimately dim, most of the lighting is provided by candles, but for an oscillating carbon-filament bulb adding to the flicker. Folksy tunes jangle in the background, and co-owner Megan Jones ( Reposado , The County General ) turns to produce her signature beaming welcome. Though the neighbourhood appears barren, the bar is already surrounded by new locals. It seems that they've developed a regular following.
Opening a bar with her partner, Tim Pritchard ( Communist's Daughter ), has been a long gestating idea. I ask if it's more like getting married, or having a baby. Megan bursts out laughing, "Both! But without any of the pressure". That's kind of the atmosphere here in a nutshell.
Surrounded by so many new restaurant launches with so much hype, The Gaslight doesn't feel like a new place at all. Tiny tables and church pews combine with the candlelight to encourage people to hunker down in either conspiratorial or convivial tones. Megan and Tim flow around the space with the ease of a couple at home.
Given that they both inhabit the apartment upstairs (and work the wood downstairs seven nights a week), that should come as no surprise. What is a surprise, however, is that much of the interior is brand new - elegant wainscoting and a vintage pineapple advertising mural on the wall facing the kitchen pass betray that fact.
The kitchen itself operates in an open space in the back of the bar. Megan's old friend from her days at The County General , Garth Legree ( Little Anthony's ) has developed an inspired bar menu of comforting treats. Starting with French cuisine as the base, quite a few of the dishes are gooey and indulgent, and certainly require the use of cutlery. Day-to-day duties in the tiny kitchen are shared by Megan's cousin Michael Greer, and Alycia Wahn.
The Petite Roast Beef Monsieurs ($10) are dense and soothing. Sanagans beef is slathered with horseradish and sandwiched in crusty white bread, before being smothered with gruyere and bĂŠchamel. It's decadent fare, but thankfully comes in two pieces so sharing is made easy.
The Broccoli Poutine ($8) keeps up with the gruyere, pouring a cheesy sauce all over crunchy steamed broccoli. The addition of bacon, pickled jalapenos, and bacon fat-fried panko adds to the numerous textures at play.
We also tried the Po Boi Pierogis ($11). Given the weight of the dishes already up, I was expecting more of the same, but these were surprisingly light. The dumplings were stuffed with shrimp and chorizo, and sat in a bed of remoulade, with a little shredded iceberg lettuce and tomatoes topping the dish off. I had to stop at three dishes, but plan to head back to try the charcuterie, amongst the other options on offer.
Megan's best known for her cocktail work, and, while The Gaslight focuses mostly on craft beer (with a healthy selection of Canadian whiskey and tequila), there's a rotating selection of cocktails on the board. She explains the reasoning is that she wants people to feel comfortable ordering the classics, knowing that they'll be made with attention to detail.
That said, neither Tim nor herself wanted the place to be regarded as a cocktail bar, hence the scant selection of originals. Cocktails usually come in at around the $9-10 range, with one of the board offerings always available as a pitcher for $23-25. I tried the Rum Punch, a delicately spiced blend of rum, salted pineapple, lime, bitters, and a cranberry-almond soda.
Following that, Tim made me his signature bourbon sour, as an example of the kind of quality one can expect when a classic is ordered. Made with a combination of lemon and lime juices, but no egg white, it's bright, fresh, and mouthwatering.
As mentioned earlier, craft beer is taken seriously enough here that one can feel comfortable treating the space as a local. On tap are beers from Junction Brewery, Oast House, and Muskoka, while a range of bottles and cans are available too (including the increasingly ubiquitous Woodhouse lager), all in the $6.50-7.50 range.
It's not often that I have a reason to venture over to the Bloor and Lansdowne area. I have a few good friends that live nearby, and I'm always persuading them to join me downtown for a drink instead. I don't think I'll be able to convince them so easily anymore. Nor would I want to.