Art Square Cafe
While the AGO will remain closed for "transformation" 'til later this year, there is still plenty of art to experience on this stretch of Dundas West - culinary arts , of course....
The Art Square cafe, located directly across from the AGO, features an exhibit of painted works and a little hidden gem of a cafe all tucked into one narrow townhouse-turned-gallery.
You can pick up a coffee, crepe or even a box of pure chocolate truffles and sit amidst the artwork. Should you need to get some work done as well (boo to that!), in-cafe WIFI is always free. Art and technology aside for a moment though, let's get back to the food.
There with a couple of caffeine-deprived colleagues, I order an Americano ($1.65), brewed with Illy coffee. It's my favourite bean and prepared with Art Square professionalism, it doesn't disappoint. On the side, I get a large almond biscotti ($1.50) and a few of dark chocolate-pistachio bites for sharing ($1.25 for 2). Both are terrific paired with a dark coffee.
The biscotti might seem a simple pick, but it's far richer than most regular cafe biscotti. While some bakers might just toss a few almonds into the mix, here you can immediately taste and smell the difference almond flour and amaretto make.
Across the table, "Siege of Art" is all the rage. The recipe here is a hit of espresso blended with 70% dark chocolate and skim milk. The coffee is strong, the chocolate subtle, and it's all topped some of the most photogenic chocolate-dusted foam I've ever seen (pictured at the top).
Around us, other customers are digging into crepe orders and soon we're driven to abandon our own dinner plans and indulge.
The menu features an assortment of different sweet and savoury crepes. We decide to try the daily crepe special: Berries and Rum with specialty tea ($5.50), along with a dessert menu pick we're sure will show off Art Square's chocolate strengths: Chocolate Fondue for Two ($14.50).
The delightful crepe is simple, bursting with dark berry jam and dusted with powdered sugar. The tea that came along with it was a mulled cinnamon tea which we didn't think suited the crepe well, but I should point out that I'm not much of a fan of 'mulled' drinks to begin with.
The fondue was more decadent than we could ever have imagined.
A bubbling bowlful of thick dark chocolate was carefully placed between us, filling the entire gallery with the smell of cocoa, while a platter of chopped apple, pear, and banana aside cinnamon-dusted crepes arrives a moment later. I was about to ask if there were strawberries available (quintessential fondue fruit, no?), but just then, staff came bustling over with yet another sliced crepe (this one chocolate-filled) and I was rendered speechless by the amount of food - let alone chocolate - that surrounded me.
As you might imagine, it was amazingly good, yet almost too rich. The chocolate was so dense that we were near fondue'd-out after only a few pieces. Not really a flaw in the dish, of course, but something to keep in mind. Perhaps Art Square knows the feeling though, as the menu notes that you can get unfinished chocolate to take home - which, for the record, is a good plan. It makes a great melted spread on a slice of toast the next morn.
Staff here is friendly and a late 10pm closing time makes it easy to settle in for the evening and get some work done on the ol' notebook while enjoying great food and atmosphere. I'm heading back this evening.