Weslodge Saloon, 480 King St West, Toronto
We know saloons filled the streets in the 1800’s and were as common then, as our convenience stores today, but who would think we’d stumble across one, right here, in Toronto’s King West community? Weslodge (no ‘t’) is the kind of saloon that comes with incredible food, an impressive wine list, and hospitable staff that would make you forget that you were even in a, so called, ‘saloon’.
I first stumbled upon Weslodge when looking for a suitable location for a business lunch and like usual, though I wasn’t going to have wine with lunch, I wanted to see what the wine list looked like. Was it worth a return dinner visit? (This is very different, I know, using the wine list as a determining factor for a return and not the food.) Upon first glance at the wine list, I was immediately impressed by its depth and breath, with a respectable amount of wines coming from Canada, the old world and the new. I also saw that the wine list had a telling slew of blank pages at the back, making it clear that they were already thinking about adding wines to this impressive list. So, to sum it all up, it was deemed a saloon worth covering on the Wine Hobbyist.
Dinner and Wine at Weslodge
Dinner service, even though we arrived relatively early in the evening, had an immediate buzz of elation, differing greatly from the business air at lunch. All good signs though, as it told us about the versatility of the restaurant. The Weslodge interior was markedly reminiscent of what you would expect to see in a 19th century saloon, with the traditional taxidermy and throwback pictures of yesteryear. They even went as far as to fit the bar with little oak barrels (similar to the ones you would see in a 19th century saloon spouting ale) filled negroni, and house tailored cocktail mixtures, which age in oak for at least five days! So, seeing the time, energy and thought that went into not only the wine list, but also the cocktail preparation, we decided to start the night off with a cocktail. Like usual, I ordered my trusted Manhattan, but asked the mixologist to make it the way they (Weslodge) or even he (off menu) would like to make it. George, our mixologist for the night, made me a Tobacco Manhattan, which came with the standard Bourbon, Vermouth and bitters, but the icing on the cake was the addition of the Weslodge tobacco tincture, made and cured in house. Now, don’t let the ‘tobacco’ in the name fool you. What the tobacco does is enhance your Manhattan with the same type of smokey, mature feel at the back of your tongue, as a faithful scotch would do. In fact, I highly recommend this drink if a serious liquor or scotch is your thing. Also, if you do get this cocktail or any other, ask about what we’re calling the ‘magical ice cubes’. For some of their cocktails, Weslodge uses the perfect layer off of a brick of ice, which is then cubed, but because there are no imperfections in the ice, you cannot tell an ice cube is even dressing the inside of your glass. Talk about attention to detail!
After my cocktail introduction, we moved on to the food menu, understanding that it would get us closer to exploring their wine list. The Weslodge dinner menu is sizable, but not overwhelming. No matter your dietary preferences, they’ve got you covered. All menu items are reasonably priced with small plates ranging from $5 to $14 and large (mains) around the $22 price point. However, through our experience, the Weslodge food adventure is best done when shared; giving you a chance to try several dishes on the menu. We had the Scotch Egg ($5), Buffalo Tar Tar ($15), Salt Cod Brandade ($12), Fluke Ceviche ($12) and a Weslodge Burger ($18). The notables from our dining were the Scotch Egg and Buffalo Tar Tar. The Scotch Egg’s chorizo, egg and truffle combination, will keep your palate dancing for days, and the tender, smooth and flavourful makeup of the tar tar, will cause you look at buffalo meat in a whole new light. Now, on to the wine…
First things first. When you get to Weslodge, ask if their sommelier is in-house that night (Laurel Finlay), she is fantastic at what she does. We let her guide the wine selection for our entire meal, and we’re glad we did. Laurel crafted the Weslodge wine list herself, and it is as punchy and multidimensional as she.
We started our small plates off with a 2008, Schramsberg Blanc de Noir, from California. A lovely brut, sparkling wine with fantastic notes of honey, citrus and some almond. We then moved on to the 2010 Unique, Sauvignon Blanc from France, which was a superb crisp white that complimented our Fluke Ceviche dish, astonishingly. From here, we decided to stay in the old world and tasted a 2011 Beaujolais Blanc, which we paired with our cod dish and for our burger, we did an Italian Primitivo from Ugozanier. I highly recommend the Primitivo and meat pairing. The two worked graciously together, with neither over powering the other, but only adding to the delightful complexity on your palate.
By the time our dinner was done, Weslodge turned into a lively nightspot, filled with a blend of hipsters and trendsetters, looking to wet their palate with a uniquely crafted libation. With the Weslodge team being as highly skilled, as they are, at what they do, there is no question that it will become a staple on the list of hot spots. From the mixologists who were vastly knowledgeable on their process, to the mastermind behind the wines that filled their deep wine list; it was a fantastic Wine Hobbyist night.
Trust me, the saloon experience never looked … ur umm… tasted so good. An all in all great addition to the already vibrant King West community!