Belljar Café’s Vincent Pollard
BELLJAR CAFÉ 2072 Dundas West, 416-535-0777, belljarcafe.com
When Geoff McPeek decided to open a coffee shop on a barren strip of Dundas West four years ago, he envisioned a gathering point for his friends to fuel their creative inclinations.
Considering his extensive background in the arts - McPeek has worked in music, film, editing and publishing - it wasn't a stretch to name his spot for Sylvia Plath's novel (also the name of a band he played in for years).
Historically, coffee houses were the glue that inspired intelligentsia and brought activists together, but taverns and bars were where ideas flowed freely as social inhibitions dissolved and spirits ran high.
If you've got the means, McPeek figured, you might as well offer the best of both worlds.
Over the past few months, he and his wife, Lisa, have extended the Belljar's bar, built an adorable back patio, hired a booze wizard and opened their doors to the night.
The understatedly eclectic space transitions fluidly from daytime hangout to sundown haunt. Beautifully illuminated with vintage fixtures and candlelight, the Belljar can frame a stimulating discussion or a pensive drink to a killer soundtrack. (Night or day, the playlist kicks ass.)
Cocktails by drinksmith Vincent Pollard are delicious - his Run Come Save Me ($10), a bewitching mixture of Fernet Branca, reduced Mexican Coca Cola and fresh lemon, may be one of the best things I've tasted all year.
Modestly priced wine, beer and snacks are available, but the cocktails are the quickest path to liquid epiphany.
Hours: The bar operates daily 5 pm to close.
Patio: A partially covered wooden oasis complete with heating lamps and blankets, so you don't have to be patio-shy as the weather cools.
Washrooms: On the main floor, at the back.
Run Come Save Me ($10)
After travelling to Argentina, where the unofficial national drink is fernet and Coke, Vincent Pollard began fooling around with variations. He reduces Mexican Coca Cola, made with real cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup, which softens the herbal blow of the pungent Italian bitter and lends a creamy texture. Both Fernet lovers and skeptics will adore this cocktail.
1½ oz Fernet Branca
2 oz Mexican Coca Cola reduction (Mexican Coca Cola is available at most Latin stores; reduce by half)
½ oz fresh lemon juice*
¼ oz simple syrup
Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled rocks glass. Garnish with a thick lemon twist.
*Pollard recommends subbing ¾ oz Meyer lemon juice for the last two ingredients if you can find it... and afford it.