Grey Gardens has a nondescript front with subtle signage that belies what’s inside.
This former scooter store in Kensington Market has transformed into an aesthetically stunning, bright space that’s all about details, from its pleasing pastel palette with gold accents and palm wallpaper down to the ombre-pink pepper mill at the pass.
There are a variety of areas to drink and dine: a rustic, yellow table right at the front; the inviting-looking bar; a main dining area with banquette seating; or IMO, the best spots – the beautifully designed seats around the open kitchen.
Since it’s a wine bar, there’s a highly curated yet broad selection encompassing red, white, rose, orange and sparkling, with many of the bottles sorted into descriptive categories like “delicate, lifted, ethereal” or “herbal, spicy, complex.”
Ciders are also given a place of prominence, and there’s also a short “secret (lol) sake list,” as it’s written on the cheeky menu.
Two beers on tap come from opposite ends of the spectrum, with a rotating local microbrew ($8/12oz) and mass-produced Coors Light ($7/12oz). A cider from West Ave. is also available on draft ($8/12oz).
In terms of mixed drinks, four different kinds of spritz ($12 each) are on offer, plus classic cocktails like Martinis (MP), Negronis, Old Fashioneds and Manhattans (all $14 each).
I try the Citrus spritz, which contains Amaro Montenegro, jasmine, yuzu and cava. It tastes like summer – a bit sweet, tart, sparkly – and makes for some dangerously easy drinking.
Unlike Ko and Shoto, there are no tasting menus here; instead, options are split into sections (snacks, small, medium, noodles, large) and dishes that feature seasonal ingredients change regularly.
Dubbed “New North American” cuisine, it has international/Asian influences thanks to Bates’s time at Momofuku.
From the “small” plates, we try a dish that features snow peas with squid, hollandaise and madras ($16). The peas are sweet and crunchy and the squid is tender, while the sauce gives it a hit of acidity.
When we visit, the kitchen is taking advantage of a good spot prawn season with a “small” plate of them raw and fresh, accompanied by fried garlic, some water chestnut, wood sorrel, lemon and chili oil ($20).
This is my fave dish of the night; it’s delicate and flavourful – there’s an addictive tingle of spice mixed with citrus, and a lovely combination of textures – smooth and slimy, plus a bit of crunch.
Lamb with fava beans, feta and herbs ($31) comes from the “large” section, and arrives melt-in-mouth medium rare and perfectly seasoned. The fava, feta and herbs pair well with the lamb, and my meat-loving dining companion can’t get enough of it all.
For Kensington, this is definitely more of a splurge meal, but then again, most places in this ’hood are much more casual and lunch oriented. This Grey Gardens may not be named after the Maysles film, but both are masterpieces in their own rights.