LE SWAN SPREADS ITS WINGS
Hot off the Black Hoof’s closure, Jen Agg and Co. give a venerable Queen West diner a French twist
Le Crawford, Swan, (892 416-536-4440, Queen West, instagram.com/leswanfrenchdiner) at for many has Torontonians, a new name, but it needs no introduction. In its original incarnation, the Swan occupied the same spot for two decades, serving diner classics and modernized brunches to Queen West patrons.
One of those regulars was Jen Agg, years before she opened the Black Hoof and became a local household name.
“I used to go to Swan all the time with my parents and friends,” Agg tells NOW. “It was legit one of the only cool places in the city to dine, and they were always playing great music like Galaxie 500 and Built to Spill. Jane [Ferriss]’s food was comforting and delicious, and it just felt great to be in the room. It was the kind of place where you’d run into pals and end up slurping oysters into the night and gossiping about the local musicians at the next table.”
The spot changed hands several times, notably becoming a satellite location of Anthony Rose’s Rose & Sons from 2015 to 2017, before it eventually, as Agg tells it, fell into her lap via a real estate agent.
“I’ve been dreaming about having that But with space the my Hoof whole slated career,” to wind she down says. its 10-year run at the end of the summer, she hadn’t been planning to open up another spot again so soon. “Basically, I had a quick decision to make,” she said. “David [Greig, also the bar manager at Agg’s Kensington spot Grey Gardens] and I cracked a bottle of burgundy, and somewhere between bottle one and two, the angels sang and we just saw the concept so clearly.” The fortuitous timing meant most of the Black Hoof’s team just got moved one block south after it closed in mid-August, including chef James Santon, who developed a menu for Agg and Greig’s “French diner” concept. Actually, it almost reads like two split menus, with duelling dishes put side by side: trout rillettes and tuna melts, a rotisserie quarter-chicken versus a hot chicken sandwich, steak frites and chicken fried steak. “We thought it was a cool idea that we had never – surprisingly – seen done, but as we fleshed it out, we realized that it was a really interesting way to keep the menu pretty accessible to as many people as possible,” Agg says. “I hate the way restaurants can be off-limits to anyone without a large disposable income, or to kids struggling someone experience they and champagne Swan pretty Life, If you a can there to bottle for amazing.” don’t pay have wants around without are of of for the feel beers French High to school. best like breaking have 20 — Life tuna livin’ bucks. wines and a This – restaurant get melt truly the the picked way, That’s out bank, High ever the of if with sommelier trying into very as an reasonable to many eye find Jake for hands ways accessible Skakun mark-ups. to as get possible (“He’s great pricing I’m always wine with like by ‘JAKE, wins”) influenced IT’S as well A cocktails BUSINESS,’ as a menu by but Greig. of he French- usually what “People a fun are late-night quickly stop clueing Swan in is to – the tail room den vibe, really plus lends we itself have to fondue a cockafter 11.” In that sense, it looks like Agg has preserved that late-night neighbourhood hangout feel she loved so much about the Swan – as well as a lot of the room’s original charm. The bar stools and sprawling wood back bar unit, complete with round mirror, are still in place, but there are also some groovy coloured lights in the glassware shelves, swan-print wallpaper in the washrooms and a massive mirror keen-eyed diners might recognize: it used to hang over the bar at the Black Hoof. There’s one piece of Swan history absent: the original red-and-black sign, which Agg tried to hunt down before the opening. “I found out who has it, thought about it a lot and decided that a painted logo in the window would be part of a fresh start. Some things are best left to happy memories.” email@example.com | @nataliamanzocco