Art Square Café
334 Dundas Street West
brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $33
I have a thing for tiny little tucked away cafés. They’re the kind of place I’d open if I ever became a restaurateur; someplace cute and cozy with great food and no pretension. The only problem with cute little tucked away cafés is that it’s hard for people to find them. Hidden behind a bright gallery space, Art Square Café likely gets overlooked more than it should.
We arrive for brunch on a Sunday morning to find only about half of the dozen or so tables occupied. Of the customers, all are students frantically studying for the last of their mid-terms.Every occupied table holds at least one open laptop amidst cups of coffee and plates of crepes in various stages of consumption.
My original order of the Grilled Chicken & Mayan Organic Dark Chocolate Crepe ($11.50) brings the sad-faced Aussie server back to our table. The kitchen is out of chicken. Now it’s my turn to make a sad face. I opt instead for the Mediterranean Feast Crepe ($8.50), at which point I’m told there are no sun-dried tomatoes. I order it anyway.
Two Americanos ($1.65 each) come with additional hot water on the side, one of those little things that show someone is thinking about customer satisfaction. We are pleased. Waiting for our order, we look around. Shelves are filled with gift type items of coffee, tea, chocolate and pre-made mixes of cookie ingredients or soup mix. At the cash, displays of biscotti and truffles wrapped cheerily in cellophane and ribbons spills onto the counter. (This might not be the best display option, as we completely forgot to try the truffles while we were there, in part because we just didn’t know what was on offer – the printed menu doesn’t really mention the flavours.)
Sun flows into the room via a tiny enclosed courtyard with three or four tables, a garden trellis and a fountain, and upholstered Eames-style chairs and black tables make for clean lines and comfortable seating.
Our brunch arrives and as is often the case with crepes, the savoury crepe special ($5.50) is not beautiful. A buckwheat crepe garnished only with a dollop of the house “green sauce”, it is plain and not at all alluring. The green sauce, a blend of garlic, parsley, dill, lemon and olive oil, is far too acidic. The first taste is one of “wow!”, and then the second is just astringent. The filling, however is good; a blend of fluffy egg and grilled eggplant and zucchini.
The Mediterranean Feast comes filled with roasted red pepper, feta cheese, thyme, and mint and is garnished with tomato and cucumber slices, plump sweet olives and a drizzle of olive oil. It is enjoyable, but would have been better with the salty tang of the sun-dried tomatoes.
To make up for the loss of my chocolate chicken crepe, we share the Exotic Fruit Dessert Crepe ($7.50). Although not listed in the description, the fruit inside includes papaya, and it all tastes canned, not fresh. Also the white crepes in particular are suffering from a rubbery texture, indicating that they’ve been made in advance. A multitude of sins can be (mostly) disguised with ice cream and chocolate, though, and we finish this easily.
Despite the uneven food, I still really like this place. The service is friendly, efficient and sincere, the space is quite inviting and the atmosphere is so welcoming and genuine. With a little more attention to detail in the kitchen such as keeping ingredients in stock, using fresh fruit instead of canned, and cooking the crepes to order, Art Square Café could become the kind of place this city clamours for. What could be nicer after a day at the AGO than to discover this little Parisian-style gallery and café serving up crepes and coffee?