Sense Appeal (Etobicoke)
Sense Appeal has opened a major headquarters on Lake Shore, and it's big. Taking over a former restaurant, the space is vaulted and wide, and they've done a great job bringing an earthy feel to the huge room. Salvaged and varnished wood is used for tables, countertop, cabinets and bookshelves, some filmic and industrial light fixtures illuminate the room, and rustic burlap coffee bags provide textural and graphic elements. Part coffee shop, part lab, part roastery, part restaurant, the ambition is palpable.
The friendly staff at the coffee bar greeted me as soon as I walked in. On the board you'll see all those Sense Appeal favourite blends -- GN, C and K -- and can have a brew made up with any of them. This location of Sense Appeal has pushed its combination of science and creativity even further, but with a slower tempo. Here you can savour coffee in pour over, siphon and Aeropress (something nearly impossible with the pace of the Spadina location) as well as from the Dalla Corte espresso machine.
The usual espresso-based drinks are available, espresso $2.50, cappuccino $3.50, latte $3.90, and everything in between, but they also offer some unusual treats too. The Turkish latte ($4.50) is made with your choice of bean and cardamom, cinnamon and raw sugar added, the Sweet latte ($4.50) involves a house-made caramel sauce, and the Kashmir Chai (also $4.50) is an exotic mix of pistachio, saffron, roasted coconut, house-made chair syrup sweetened with dates, not sugar.
Several elements of the new Sense Appeal are "works-in-progress" soon to be up and running. Some are simple, as in the specialty sugars (date and fig, crystalized guava) and homemade milks (coconut, almond) that will be offered with the coffee. Some are much more elaborate, like the brunch and lunch menus, house smoked and cured meats, barista and wholesale customer training courses, and full coffee laboratory at the back beside the roasting facilities.
All of these aspects of the business are getting worked out, and worked on, as they tweak production. The same science-mixed-with-creative approach that was a signature of the Spadina location is present in the new digs, and magnified three times over, so their MO is testing, retesting and qualifying each element of the new business until it's perfect.
The baking and the roasting facilities, however, are complete, so you'll see plenty of activity in those departments. The roasting is down towards the back, with two giant Diedrich machines ready to go. Bags and bins of coffee beans are carefully labelled, profiles recorded and catalogued, and production high- all of Sense Appeal's roasting happens on these premises, with weekly delivery into the downtown core. The proximity of the roasting station to the coffee experimentation lab is fantastic; in the future students will be able to notice with all their senses how beans translate from green to cup.
The baking ovens and kitchen are nestled between the roasting area, and the front of house coffee bar, making up the seamless blend of coffee, food and lab. Treats include chocolate chip banana oat cookies ($2.50), carrot zucchini muffins ($2.00), espresso brownies ($2.55), chocolate and butter croissants ($2.55) and granola bars ($2.75). The lunches at the Spadina location are notoriously wonderful, so I'm thinking with this industrial sized kitchen and the already lovely sweets, brunch and lunch promises good things.
The whole front of the building is an enormous garage door, which, when open, breathes Lake Shore street life into the vibrant café. The aromas of freshly roasted coffee and delicious food will surely draw in the neighbourhood, though I think it should have downtown folks making the trek too. It's worth it.
Photos by Morris Lum