Going out. Tuesday night. The two don’t often come hand in hand, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve been out on a Tuesday. Alas, my friend and I are up for a new adventure in our vibrant city. Who are we to deny our craving simply because it falls on a Tuesday? Realistically some research needs to be done first to ensure that we don’t fall into the common “weekday slump” that often leaves businesses empty. So the Reservoir Lounge’s online promise that every night of the week is just as exciting really catches my attention.
Once we pinpoint the exact location, I discover that Reservoir Lounge exists as a little companion to well-known Toronto Mexican restaurant “Hernando’s Hideaway”, (a past venue featured on OTR). It’s easy to miss at an hour as dark as this one, but once you find it you’ll be so glad you didn’t walk right past it.
We enter the Reservoir Lounge; a dark atmosphere that makes one feel like they’ve just stepped into a secret underworld. We pay a reasonable $5 cover charge, passing by coat check before scoping out our options for seating. We spend a good two minutes observing the person to table capacity, it’s pretty high. Great for the Reservoir Lounge, bad for us. We finally spot two empty chairs at one of the restaurant’s bar islands, beside a cute elderly man poised with his notepad, pen and glass of red; the tell-tale signs of a regular customer. A waitress rushes over from the even darker back section of the restaurant where the individuals are blurred into shadows. She places a food and beer & wine menu beside our already present cocktail menu, but there’s no need, my eyes found the “Cosmopolitan” as soon as I sat down. I order my signature cocktail, with my friend opting for the lounge’s Mojito.
Not a moment later and we’ve got our drinks, along with a jug of ice water and glasses placed in front of us. Now that that’s settled, it’s time to experience the magic we were promised. The bands are currently in transition, and the place is just packed with after-work patrons, rehashing details that may have been brushed over earlier on in the day. Photo after photo is taken at each table, the unique decor taken advantage of as an intriguing background to smiling faces. The open brick concept is reminiscent of the loft I never had. My friend comments that she feels like she’s in a bar straight out of a movie. A fact that one could embrace especially if they strive to take a trip to a NYC or Chicago joint for the night. Yes, this lounge is definitely interchangeable with any given underground bar that caters to an authenticity-appreciating crowd, and I couldn’t be more proud of my decision to come here tonight.
I take a sip of my Cosmo, taking in the pleasant potency in the small quantity of drink. I’m barely into my second sip when I feel a tap on my shoulder. It’s cover charge guy, asking if we’d like to check our coats. As all of my personal belongings are in my pockets, I’m thinking no. He repeats his request again, a bit more forcefully, reassuring me that my coat will be in good hands. I compromise with him, promising I’ll tuck it under my seat. He doesn’t seem too happy that coat check won’t end up guarding my jacket, but he leaves me be. I understand that one may find coats hanging over the back of chairs to be…sloppy looking? I haven’t ever experienced that before. I’m indifferent to it, yet it’s definitely something I should mention.
The waitress returns to check on our drinks, asking if I’m interested in any tapas. I select a tempting choice under the “Devil’s Toast” category, (Ragou of Wild Mushrooms, Pancetta & Melted Asiago Cheese on Grilled Garlic Bread to be exact). Yes, it was indeed as delicious as it sounded. Especially for someone as hungry as I was in that moment. Definitely the most I’ve enjoyed a selection of bread in a long time.
It’s now 9:50 in the evening and if I’m not mistaken, it’s time for some live music. Right on cue, a number of individuals carrying appropriate jazz instruments emerge from the darkness of the back corners, a process that takes quite a bit of time, which leaves me questioning how many members are actually in this band (it turns out to be only five). Each person assumes their position on the stage, and boy do they mean business. Once they start to play, they leave no doubt in the minds of the patrons that they are meant to be here. The red twinkling Christmas lights over the bar, the scattered candles, the brick decor. The mysterious setting does their music justice, and they reflect this through the incredible capacity of their playing. This is where you want to be when you’re listening to jazz.
I order a Wild Strawberry Bellini just because. My mind is currently occupied by the wonderful variations of melodies syncing together to leave the audience with no choice but to hang onto their every note. The band feeds off the audience, with applause sounding after each respective solo; a rare appreciation for music nowadays. Each member of the band makes a sure effort to centre a portion of the song around them as a showcase for their individual talent. Yet, they know when to call it quits and resume their collaboration to cover greater musical ground.
I’m mesmerized with the band. I absentmindedly grab for my Bellini, only to be quickly brought back to reality with the disappointing consistency and flavour I’ve just experienced which can be only described as…a cough syrup like concotion. Nothing like the other Bellinis I’m used to. Yet, I can’t knock the quality. The quality is superb, and I’m sure this drink does it for others, but not for me.
I resume my state of complete intrigue with the band, when a movement out of the corner of my eye catches my attention. A man strangely resembling American Idol winner Taylor Hicks (and who knows, with the past celebrity clientele this could very well be him), swooshes his glass of wine around in a desperate attempt to come off as suave to woo potential dates in his vicinity. He looks over my way, where I must force my body language to reject his section of the lounge, awkwardly winding my way around the wall beside me standing in the way between me and the band. He eventually gets it.
I raise my glass to my friend’s in a toast, reminiscing our friendship thus far, and to the hopeful future where we hope to catch up in more hidden gems such as this one.
Let’s SCALE it:
Group of Friends: 2-8 – A great balance between dates and colleagues.
Fanciness: 7.5/10 – Not too enforced, but definitely recommended to fit the etiquette.
Ambience: 9/10 – Every customer is actively participant in encouraging the band, an experience unique to many venues.
Location: 8/10 – It could be easy to miss amongst its neighbours, yet location gets big points for being in the trendy St. Lawrence area.
Food/Drink Selection: 9/10 – Great selection.
Food/Drink Quality: 8/10 – I didn’t find the Bellini to be too great, but the Cosmo and tapas were exquisite!
Service: 9/10 – Very prompt, very consistent.
Price: 6.5/10 - The drinks are pricey, which is a little bit of a disappointment, especially here.
First Impressions: 9/10 – A hidden gem that looks promising.
Last Impressions: 8.5/10 – The live music really makes this lounge a rarity in the city, however you really have to have a fine appreciation for this type of music to really appreciate what the venue is going for.
Population: Early 30’s-Mid-70’s
Summary: The Reservoir Lounge is DEFINITELY on my radar!
52 Wellington Street East
A menu to satisfy your taste buds.
Now that’s how you make a Cosmo.
One of the many solo performances the Reservoir Lounge clientele are treated to.
Right out of a classic bar scene.