Suppose you're a mega-successful Canadian haberdasher with a chain of stores around the world. Fashion mags applaud your line's ingenuity and the public has made your name synonymous with understated good taste. Even your housewares division rockets through the roof.
Then you get the brainstorm to open a restaurant! How can it fail?
That a company famous for the meticulous quality of its clothes would be responsible for an operation this shoddy is unfathomable.
Chic grotto The proposal looks fabulous on paper. Transform the unused curbside terrace that wraps around your flagship store at Avenue Road and Bloor into a chic grotto by adding a few giant umbrellas to protect customers from the sun and rain.
Get young staff to dress in all-black or all-white Club Monaco clobber. Have them serve an all-day soup, salad, sandwich and pasta menu at reasonable-for-Yorkville prices. Sit back and listen to the cash registers ka-ching as the fashionistas flock.
But as any restaurateur will tell you, if it were this easy they'd all be rich.
Let's start with the chairs. They're very lovely -- stylishly moulded plywood stacking things, painted white. Though they get hosed down every night, they're as sticky as the ones found in porno theatres.
Did I mention the noise? Not only does rather not-bad R&B blast from a row of speakers ringing the patio, but the non-stop roar of passing traffic makes conversation impossible. Perhaps the servers could be equipped with bullhorns so they can be heard above the din.
As a first course, pasta e fagioli ($6.50) is overpriced, under-seasoned and completely incongruous in the summer heat. In February, sure. But heavy bean soup at this time of year? Fuggeddaboudit.
Why grilled peppers, eggplant and zucchini on lacklustre tomato-flecked focaccia is called muffuletta ($8) baffles me. It's neither topped with an olive-caper salad New Orleans-style nor layered with pickled Italian veg -- one dull sandwich.
One day, the frites look like those frozen battered fries that Molly Johnson is always singing about on TV commercials. The next visit, they're plain shoestrings. The menu claims they're Yukon Gold. Who knew the McCains struck it rich in the Klondike?
I can't fault my lamb burger ($11), a thick medium-rare patty spread with spicy curried mayo. But today's pasta special -- a miserly portion of agnolotti ($13) -- finds noodle half-moons filled with cheddar and indiscernible jalapeño.
Worryingly thin, the seared rare tuna that comes with salade Niçoise ($14) just barely keeps its centre true-blue. And while the wine list contains no bargains, a bottle of San Pelligrino mineral water ($5/750 ml) only costs double what it does at a convenience store.
Groucho Marx said he'd never join a club that would take him as a member. Club Monaco, cancel my membership.
(157 Bloor West, 591-1282)
One of Canada's most successful clothing chains opens a Yorkville cafe with mixed results. Maybe the brass should remember the words of fashion philosopher Malcolm Maclaren: "Once a haberdasher, always a haberdasher." Complete meals for $30 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open daily 11 am to 10 pm. Fully licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: One of Canada's most successful clothing chains opens a Yorkville cafe with mixed results. Maybe the brass should remember the words of fashion philosopher Malcolm Maclaren: "Once a haberdasher, always a haberdasher." Complete meals for $30 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open daily 11 am to 10 pm. Fully licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NN