On one side of Archive, an exposed brick wall partly covered with a vase of baguettes and jars of pickles and dried herbs and spices lead to the bar and kitchen. On the other, a pristine white wall is background for a row of wooden tables and a bench, and decorative photographs of ferris wheels and a carousel. The space is longer than it is wide and is decidedly cozy. On a recent visit, a traveler sat planning out her itinerary next to a group of coworkers on a night out; a young couple perched by the bar and chatted with the staff; two old women sat in the corner by the window and quietly worked on their bottle of orange wine. With its two windows facing a calmer bit of Dundas West and Bellwoods and low hung yellow lights, Archive is a picture of a place one imagines one would someday stumble into, make chance acquaintance with and fall in love.
The wine list is not exhaustive but long enough for a good perusal and the small menu of tapas and cheese & meats encourage adventures and learning by trial and error. The staff take a “What do you like to drink?” approach, which is, more often than not, for formality than function, but the 3oz glass option ease the pressure. But a recommendation from a well informed staff — a glass of Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from A. A. Tiberio — was refreshingly dry and delicious with notes of flowers and, in the parlance of wine descriptions, ‘minerals.’ The point, it dawned on me half way through my second glass, was to be okay with not putting the exacting words of description to a wine. A glass of pinot noir from Alsace sealed my trust in her recommendations.
The foods offers, however, were less satisfying. Small savory snacks are offered as ‘Nibbles,’ $5 per plate or three plates for $13. Though the warmed olives are decent, neither the lupini beans (served in olive oil and salt) nor the shishito peppers offer much flavor. That the bread and oil are not complementary is perhaps becoming the norm in the restaurant world today, but the utterly soft and flavorless slices of baguette were an affront to good hospitality. Neither the Prosciutto nor the Chorizo offered much solace, but the Comté was, as it often is, satisfying. The steak tartare is served with the yolk of a quail egg and the shaved vegetable salad includes watermelon radishes.