MBCo (100 Bloor West, rear) Complete meals for $25 per person, including all taxes, tip and a Mimosa. Average main $10. Open daily 7 am to 7 pm. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, but very narrow and crowded space. Rating: N Rating: N
If it's true that good artists create and great artists steal, then MBCo, the just-launched Yorkville outlet of the Quebec-based franchise, is the Picasso of upscale sandwich shops.
As Izakaya appropriates Wagamama, MBCo, the Montreal Bread Company (pronounced em-bee-koh and subtitled La Boulangerie de Montreal, for those out of the loop), has lifted its concept from UK chain Pret A Manger lock, stock and pickle barrel. Why, even the deluxe containers and shopping bags they use come marked Pret A Porter. Coincidence? We think not. But unlike Mitsou and poutine, this is one francophone notion that should never have strayed this far down the 401.
First, the location sucks. Good luck finding it. Its promotional material claims it can be found at the corner of Bellair and Cumberland, home of Sassafraz and ground zero for Yorkville's Botox set, but it's actually located in the laneway behind Pottery Barn next to that park with the big rock. Now try getting in. Not only is MBCo a crowd scene come lunch, but once you've placed your order you're required to stand around for a good 10 minutes while one of several all-in-black servers assembles it as customers push their way in and others out. It makes the pandemonium in Burrito Boyz' basement seem like high tea at the King Eddy.
Yes, the all-white two-tiered shotgun space is lovely, and the display cases piled high with $12 mini-pizzas and $3.75 cheese danishes look mighty terrific. But once you're back outside with your pricey lunch in your mitts, you'll wonder why the fuss. Modestly described as "fresh bread art," the sandwich section includes deli-sliced roast beef with caramelized onion in cheap and unnecessarily sour balsamic on a grill-pressed bun ordinaire. Salmon salad (both $9 with a small container of vinegary potato salad on the side) suffers a similar sour fate. Think Druxy's with attitude, at twice the price.
Roasted beet salad ($9 with a baguette) recalls supermarket mesclun topped with un-pickled beets and something the menu refers to as "chèvre," quotes theirs. Dang if them Montrealers ain't sophisticated!
Back a few days later for a late breakfast, I place my order for an egg white omelette with goat cheese - "chèvre," surely - and oyster mushrooms ($8) and a small glass of "fresh squeezed" orange juice ($3).
"Oh, the chef's not going to like this," the counter help says, pointing to the clock above that reads 11:01. "We don't serve breakfast after 11."
When I remind her that I've been waiting in line since at least 10:58, she begrudgingly takes my order and tells me to grab a seat out on the patio. I leave the change from $15 - a generous $2.65 considering the joint's semi-self-serve - in the tip bowl for her trouble and head outdoors to a table on the park.
Open only a few weeks, this breezy midtown terrace has become home base for Yorkville fashionistas who commandeer every café chair on its gorgeous curbside patio. As it has for local pigeons - the feathered kind - who peck through an adjacent gravelled garden for windswept Montreal breadcrumbs.
Soon my omelette arrives - in a cake box. A fancy one, mind, but a box nonetheless. A clear plastic fork wrapped in a paper napkin and tied rakishly with twine accompanies. The eggs themselves are fine, lightly drizzled with truffle oil as promised, four slices of nicely grilled house black olive loaf loitering underneath.
Halfway through, I realize my juice is a no-show. When it still hasn't appeared by the time I'm ready to leave, and with no staff in sight, I contemplate going back inside to complain. But then I figure, if MBCo can't be bothered, neither can I.
More franchises are set to open shortly: one in the TD Centre, another at Yonge and Summerhill. A third, on Queen West, is in the planning stages. But MBCo needs to get its act together before it takes it on the road.