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Monday, January 2, 2012

Lunch at Jules

We've worked just down the street from Jules Bistro for over 5 years but had yet to pay it a visit. We finally remedied that on the Friday afternoon before New Years. We were off work but in the area- a perfect opportunity to take the measure of the place without the pressure of rushing to get back to the office, or of dealing with the lunchtime crush. Turns out Jules is a charmer.
The room has a casual yet sophisticated vibe, with the feel of an authentic French café layered on top of a space best described as "urban loft chic". Exposed exterior brick walls and pipes have been whitewashed to soften their industrial hardness, but the common wall separating Jules from the next door neighbour is done up in chalkboard paint, deftly texturized with handwritten wine and food menus, and a casual cushion-clad bench with tables pushed up to it runs along the wall's length. Near the back of the room is a bar and partially open kitchen.
 (photos above courtesy of  alannacavanagh.blogspot.com)
 (photo above from the restaurant's website)

The menu is quite traditional, with a few modern touches. We jumped at the Croque Monsieur but alas, they had run out. We opted instead for a Pan Bagnat, served with the soupe du jour (Vegetarian French Onion). While very good (and slightly reminiscent of an Asian broth) we would probably have preferred the heartier beef or veal or chicken stock of a traditional onion soup. Nonetheless, we were being open minded enough to not expect a caricature-French meal, so we went with the flow. The sandwich was excellent- a fresh and crusty roll with some of the bread "correctly" removed- and the ingredients were nicely bound together with generous lashes of a rich mayonnaise. (For those who are unfamiliar with Pan Bagnat, it is essentially a Salade Nicoise sandwiched between bread) We washed it down with a glass of a lovely light Mouvedre.
Sorry about the grainy photo above of our actual lunch- the shot below from foodnetworktv.com better captures a traditional Pan Bagnat.
Service was excellent. We were met at the door by a friendly greeter/ seater who ensured that we were happy with our prospect and that we had a fresh carafe of water on the table. The sole waiter on duty this afternoon was a lanky, singing Aussie who was knowlegable about the menu and the wines on offer (deftly suggesting the Mouvedre to accommpany the southern flavours of the sandwich) and who casually belted out duos alongside Arcade Fire's Win Butler on the sound system. Fortunately his night job as a musician meant that he could hold his tune!
We're anxious to get back to Jules for that missing Croque Monsieur, and to sample more of the offerings. We're pretty sure that as well as being a delightful place to lunch it would be a safe bet for a lovely and unpretentious dinner.

Jules Bistro
147 Spadina Avenue  Toronto, ON
(416) 348- 8886

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