STILL (758 Queen West, at Augusta, 416-703-6532) Complete brunch for $15, dinners for $25 per person, including all taxes, tip and a bloody Caesar. Average main $4 breakfast, $8 lunch, $11 dinner. Access: barrier free, washrooms in basement. Open daily 6 to 2:30 am. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
All that remains of the Old Duke of Connaught are the exterior shell and a couple of signs that have been left intact as a nod to history.
The Duke's new name comes from an old brewing still discovered in the basement during renovations.
What were once whiskey tunnels from the Prohibition era now house incredibly stylish washrooms, and the dark, dank main floor is a casually elegant lounge, with burnished metal tables, a couple of deep, soft couches and backgammon tables.
A wall of folding glass doors leads to an exceptionally well-winterized back patio.
We're drawn in one Sunday by the $3.99 all-day breakfast special. It's as cheap as breakfast on Queen West gets. Two competently prepared poached eggs are served with thick slices of whole wheat toast, a sizable portion of home fries and choice of bacon, ham or sausage.
The three-egg mushroom and Jack cheese omelette ($4.95) would benefit from the substition of fresh for canned 'shrooms, but again, with toast and home fries, it's a decent, cheap breakfast in an open and comfortable space.
When we return to sample some pub fare on a Thursday evening, a jazz trio plays to a handful of patrons primarily seated on the back patio.
Cheesy spin dip ($7.99) sees multi-coloured tortilla strips deep-fried and covered with cheese sauce, topped with a creamy spinach dip similar to the Knorr classic in a pumpernickel bowl.
It's a bit much for one person and gets gummy once cool. The grilled jerk chicken sandwich ($9.95) on a mini-baguette has too many flavours on the go. The caramelized mangoes get lost between the jerk flavouring and cucumber wasabi sauce. One of these strong flavours would be fine. Given the choice of regular or sweet potato fries, go for the latter - they're crispy and flavourful.
If Still suffers, it's from trying to be too many things. It seems torn between daytime getaway for young freelancers with laptops, casual dining and nightclub.
If it can make up its mind, up the quality of ingredients a notch and simplify the menu, it could become a favourite neighbourhood hangout.