Anyone who knows me and/or my writing will have gathered that I’m a bit of a barfly. I mean this in the most reputable sense of the word, i.e. that my favourite place to quaff a glass of wine and eat good food is at the bar of certain establishments.
This is especially true when I have the yen to eat out alone, particularly when travelling and exploring a new or familiar place, but also when stepping out with a friend of like mind.
Which brings me to the Library Bar at the Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto. Perched on a tall stool at the stately polished bar in this beautifully restored, elegant and cozy room, I get to kibbitz with entertaining weeknight bartender Michael and sip a glass of Merlot from Washington State or one of the hotel’s excellent Canadian house wines.
This plush room with heavy drapes, antique furniture and mandatory bookshelves is usually busy which creates a warm buzz. Happily, unlike many places that force me to lip-read (my big beef these days is dining spots rife with a deafening din), you can actually have a conversation and even enjoy a handsome young man’s acoustic guitar playing that runs the gamut from flamenco to the music of Queen.
Sometimes I’m in the mood for a martini – a good choice as they make top-notch ones here served in two glasses, one shaped like a large brandy snifter with a lip for pouring called a “bird bath” and the other a traditional martini glass for drinking.
So popular is all this with friends I’ve introduced to this wondrous spot that they now insist on meeting me here.
My new favourite place to enjoy a glass of wine in serene surroundings – this time not bellied up to a bar – means a flight to the West Coast and is also at a Fairmont Hotel.
When dropping my daughter Ruth off in Victoria this summer, I discovered the spacious, elegant verandah of the Empress Hotel. She and I began a new ritual. Wait for early evening, sit at a table in a comfy wicker chair facing the gorgeous marina with mountains as back-drop and sip a glass of chilled B.C. Chardonnay (or two) bathed in the evening’s soothing coolness and gentle light. Life doesn’t get better than this.