The Wickson Social
The Wickson Social occupies an address just off Yonge Street at the base of a new condo fronted by a preserved 1905 Gothic revival faรงade. It's a charming local from Andrew Carter and Jamieson Kerr, the folks behind The Queen & Beaver and The Oxley , only here they veer away from the traditional Brit-style public house to offer a cozy and eclectic environment defined by style and sophistication.
The main bar room is a grand space with soaring ceilings and low furniture. Opposite the 26 foot walnut bar, an oversized mural by Toronto artist Candace Osborne Bell features a whimsical cast of clothed animals printed on carpet. Clusters of antique armchairs and bright red banquettes furnish the room.
Off to one side, a bright blue room is outfitted with mirrored ceilings, dangling chandeliers and chartreuse velvet dining chairs.
The kitchen, which is encased in red tinted glass, can be seen in passing on route to the back room. The more intimate space boasts its own fully loaded bar as well as the establishment's only TV screen.
To drink there are six rotating taps featuring local brews from Steam Whistle, Junction Craft Brewing Co., Side Launch and more for $7.50 per 20 ounce pour, or $4.50 for an 11 ounce, half pint. The cocktail list changes seasonally; now in the colder months the selection includes an Apple Pie Sour ($14), a frothy beverage with house-made allspice syrup and spiked with vodka and Calvados.
The menu offers an eclectic mix of bar snacks. Fried with curried aioli, gaufrette potatoes and buttermilk onion rings are each priced at $6. More substantial selections include maple glazed pork jowls ($12), unctuous cubes of brined meat teamed with crispy matchstick potatoes.
Fried rice balls ($8) are little squishy bites of seasoned sticky rice tossed in a bright red pippali-plum sauce and sprinkled with green onions and sesame seeds. I like the tanginess of the purple plum gastrique but it's cloyingly sweet and not nearly as peppery as anticipated.
The fried red snapper ($27) features a crisp skin and flakey flesh. It's paired with broad flat noodles and eggplant in dry curry spices. It's not a bad dish, but for the money, next time I'd consider the steak (also $27).
The hand chopped burger ($19) is essentially a chopped steak that can be cooked to any temperature - so tartare with a seared exterior on a bun? Yes please. The meat is incredibly supple (whatever binds it together is undetectable), and it's just really great. House cured bacon and a fresh puffy baked bun seal the deal.
Another dish I really like is the smoked chicken and black mushroom salad ($19). It's built on a bed of baby romaine and features incredibly moist pulled poultry along with mushrooms bursting with the flavours like soy, mirin, chili, ginger and garlic. A garlicky buttermilk dressing and crunchy croutons complete the dish kind of like a souped-up Caesar salad.
By day expect to find the clientele taking meetings or hunched over laptops with a pint within reach. In the evenings, The Wickson Social is like any pub, providing sustenance and a cozy place to unwind and socialize.
Photos by Jesse Milns