Swirl: Tiny wine bar in Leslieville charms

I’d been eyeing the entrance to Swirl for some time.

I wasn’t really sure what it was — a stenciled door with a purple light shining on it… at 946 and 1/2 Queen Street East. Was it really a wine bar? Was I brave enough to go in? But  I started to read the odd review wafting around the internet and realized it really was as advertised.

So after much expectation, I went to Swirl last night for dinner.

You walk up the long set of stairs and when you get to the top it feels like you’re in someone’s apartment. Because … well you kind of are. It’s a one-bedroom apartment that’s reportedly 600 square feet and it has been converted into a wine bar. The kitchen — what was once the kitchen — is now the bar where the staff prep things. There are  six tables at the front — most are old sewing machine stands. There’s a large room at the back that could comfortably sit a large party around a large harvest table.

The vibe in the place is  nice. Cool art, great decorating, lots of people chatting. It feels comfortable and cool. It’s  amazing how much they’ve got into such a small space.

First off, I’d say their wine list is really good. They have an interesting selection, many by the glass. And the prices range from $7/glass up to about $12 if my memory serves me. I had a Cave Springs Reisling Dolomite, a Viongier (can’t remember which one!) and a Gewurztraminer, all really nice.

My friend Megan and I went after work — so we were hungry and we came for dinner. Yes, dinner. (Insert eyebrow lift)

I admit I was a little worried because I knew they didn’t have a kitchen. The apartment’s “kitchen” is now the servers area/bar to prepare things.

So you can order “jars” which are small mason jars filled with varying things ($9 each) that come with crackers and fresh baguette. We ordered a stilton jar, a duck confit jar and a chicken liver pate jar. The stilton was the fav by a long shot, the pate was nice — nice flavour and texture. I enjoyed the duck confit less — super rich and not as interesting as the other two. We also ordered a chaceuterie plate. The plate was good — had a really great ham, an italian spicy pork (my fav), a duck (which friend Megan loved) and a summer sausage which was good, but probably would have been better with less olive oil (they marinade it). But that is likely an individual taste thing.

The presentation is adorable — the jars come with little labels and you open them yourself.

I really enjoyed Swirl, and since it’s right around the corner, there’s no doubt I’ll be back. I don’t think I’d go after work on Friday when I’m really hungry, but I’d go with girlfriends for a drink and munchies. Serving that function, it’s a fantastic place. Great ambience, yummy munchies, good wine list. As a place for dinner — not so much, but really Swirl isn’t trying to be that …


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