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.
Archive is located at 909 Dundas St W and is open everyday from 5pm to 2am. Continue following our arts & culture coverage on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
It can be so easy for one to feel bombarded with unexpected obligations at the beginning of December. Sure, work schedules are dying down as people begin going on holiday breaks. But then you also remember that your aunts and uncles are going be calling you any day now, wondering when you can find time to visit. A surprisingly cumbersome task, considering you’re also in the throes of the busiest shopping time of the year. But even though it may be more difficult to find time to head back to your favourite restaurant or bar, there are still plenty of ways to find inspiration regarding new foods and drinks to try in the comfort of your own home. Plus, as this time of year can get unexpectedly stressful, it is important to remember that a night out with those closest to you is still needed. So here is a list of holiday gifts for the foodies you know and love, which they will no-doubt appreciate.
The 24-Hour Wine Expert by Jancis Robinson
We have all had those early dating experiences where you go with a special someone to a bar that you have carefully picked out, only to feel completely lost and out of your element when the time comes to choose a wine that will hopefully impress that person. With every confused look you make towards the wine list, your true ignorance begins to shine through that crumbling false confidence. Fortunately, British wine expert and journalist Jancis Robinson has done those helpless singletons a huge service by writing about all the essential knowledge one needs to have for an in-depth understanding on wine in this easy to read, compact book. From common tasting terms, to good food pairings, and even outlining the main differences between wines from different regions, this is a fantastic beginner’s guide for that person who wants to broaden their horizons from the cheap stuff they bought in college for $15 dollars, and develop a more masterful palette.
Shake. Stir. Sip.: More than 50 Effortless Cocktails Made in Equal Parts by Kara Newman
This is the perfect gift for that friend who’s an expert when it comes to hosting memorable soirées. And it also shows that just because you make something yourself, it doesn’t mean it can’t rival something you had at your favourite bar. Kara Newman is no slouch when it comes to her expertise on the subject either, as she contributes food and drink articles to publications like Wine Enthusiast and The Wall Street Journal. The cocktails inside are mixed with alcohols of equal parts, which means they are a breeze to measure out, especially for those larger get-togethers. If you plan on inviting your closest confidantes over for New Year’s, ditch that rum, coke, and plastic cup nonsense, and surprise them with something more adventurous.
Anything and Everything from Nadege Patisserie
Chocolates and sweets can be a pretty safe bet when it comes to wooing those extended family members you don’t see very often or the in-laws you’re desperately trying to impress even though you don’t know them very well. And when it comes to impressing people with sweets, you really can’t go wrong with the collection at the Nadege Patisserie. It offers the widest selection of macarons in Toronto, which can be purchased in different assorted boxes. And their selection of cakes are works of art. Their French Vanilla panna cotta, the Marie Antoinette, is particularly eye catching, so much so that you kind of won’t even want to eat it. For a more varied assortment of things to try, you can also go with one of their gift boxes, comprised of the different bon bons and chocolate tablets. Get something here for your significant other’s parents, and you will be ingratiated into the family in no time!
Lets be honest with ourselves: when you go to a nice restaurant with one of your closest friends, you can only wish the conversations you have are as effortlessly witty as the ones in The Trip, starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. The film is mostly improvised and centers around the two actors playing themselves as they visit different restaurants in the English countryside on behalf of a magazine. The more time they spend together, their petty rivalries and the begrudging affection they share begin to show through conversations that can only be had in the closest of friendships. Don’t have much time to see your friends over the holidays? Cuddle up at home and watch what is, I think, the funniest food porn you will ever see. This film, along with its’ equally funny sequel, The Trip to Italy, are available for purchase on iTunes either separately or as a bundle.
Dinner at Brothers
Hypothetical situation: I meet a friend from out of town who wants me to show them some places around the city that I think are examples of the kinds of restaurants and bars that are representative of the city’s culinary scene. To be honest, I would probably end up taking them to Brothers, located at 1240 Bay Street. It encapsulates the laid-back unpretentious vibe that is characteristically common amongst the most popular and highly regarded establishments in Toronto — such as those owned by local food celebrity Jenn Agg (The Black Hoof, The Cocktail Bar, and Rhum Corner) or Grant van Gameron (owner of the widely popular Bar Raval, Bar Isabel, and the El Rey Mezcal Bar) — offers a rotating menu selection that feels entirely its own, with a uniqueness that can only be the result of tireless passion. The dishes are largely made from ingridients produced in Ontario and cooked with slight Italian and Greek touches. Want to show you know a thing or two about good places to eat in Toronto? Bring your loved one to this lesser-known establishment that is certainly deserving of attention.
Surprise Date Night at Archive
As the beginning of December sets off that internal clock that makes you try to get your holiday shopping done as quickly as you possibly can, it can be easy to forget to make quality time for just you and your significant other. If you and your boo are big wine enthusiasts, surprise them with an intimate night out at Archive at 909 Dundas Street West. With more than 200 bottles of wine currently on their list, theirs is surely one of the longest and the most impressive you will be likely to find in the city. The minimalist, cozy atmosphere also makes for quite the low-key romantic setting. The chance to warm up with someone while escaping the stresses of the holidays is something that should not be taken for granted.
Gift Baskets from Cheese Boutique
If you’re coupled, it’s a very likely scenario that you will really want to make time for a date night at some point during the coming months, yet you will struggle to muster up the courage to brave the unrelenting cold weather. As such, make it a special night in by giving bae a gift basket from the Cheese Boutique, located at 45 Ripley Avenue. These baskets are specially made to the customer’s liking and budget, with the available cheeses from a wide variety of different countries — you can view their extensive selection here. A nice bottle of wine, exotic cheeses, watching Love Actually for the twentieth time in the comfiest sweatpants you own — the perfect night in to escape the winter blues.