Hot off the Black Hoof’s clo­sure, Jen Agg and Co. give a ven­er­a­ble Queen West diner a French twist

NOW Magazine - - FOOD - Story & pho­tos by NATALIA MANZOCCO

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.” food@nowtoronto.com | @na­tal­ia­man­zocco

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.