Michie's (1 King West, at Yonge, 416-548-8242). Complete meals for $30 per person, including all taxes, tip and a tea. Average main $12. Open 6 am to 3 am daily. Unlicenced. Access: five steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Unlicensed. Rating: NN NN
Perhaps I misunderstand when a staffer tells me Michie's has been open to the public almost around the clock since last August.
Or maybe I misconstrue the large sign with the letters O, P, E, N, written in blue and red neon in the plate glass window out front, but I guess I'm wrong to assume that the gorgeous ground-floor café in developer Harry Stinson's 1 King West condo tower is currently open for business.
"I don't know why you'd be reviewing it, since we're basically still under construction," Stinson says when I call his office to clear up the confusion. "We're just improvising. Two weeks from now it might not even be there."
Sure, Harry. Too bad you missed the opportunity to mention this a few days earlier when you were showing off the spectacular space to your mother while the crew and I did lunch. Nor did you refuse to take our money.
Michie's (pronounced Mickey's and named for the department store located here before it became a bank in 1912) is certainly striking. A soaring, four-storey atrium built onto the front of a restored Nag's Head Tavern, the room recalls the Four Seasons in New York, especially at night, when a skyline of illuminated skyscrapers looms atmospherically overhead. Shame the food's not much cop.
Soup du jour gets listed on Michie's menu as "Inspired daily, $4.95," but today's watery cream of asparagus would be more aptly described as insipid. French onion soup ($6.50) topped with a gratin of soggy bread tastes like it was assembled from a kit, then nuked. But a pile of greens in regulation balsamic passes muster even if there's no sign of the card-promised "toasted Creole pecans" and its cherry tomatoes are resolutely untrimmed.
The kitchen - and I use the term loosely - turns out a respectable sirloin ($16.95), an 8-ounce-or-so strip nicely sided with roasted baby potato and sautéed veggies, though its mushroom gravy is oversalted. A 1-inch-thick 5-inch square of lasagna gets sauced with pulpy-good tomato, garnished with fried leek chiffonade and little else. Avoid the pizza (both $10.95).
Caesar salad ($8.95) consists of knife-cut romaine, a few croutons and a toss of Parmesan, its prosciutto cracklings AWOL. And Michie's house burger ($10.95) and club sandwich ($11.95, both sided with okay fries) are virtually indistinguishable from those dished out at the Stem, only they cost nearly six bucks more and come skewered with a miniature plastic sword.
After lunch, we pick our way past scaffolding up the grand marble staircase that leads to the former banking hall soon to be the hotel's centrepiece and full-service resto, the members-only Dominion Club. It launches January 19 with a concert by Gordon Lightfoot. Taking in the unfinished supper club's vaulted ceilings and fading fin-de-siècle glamour, I recognize the look: ballroom of the Titanic.