In order to reach the new Senator Winebar, you must brave the glaring lights and eclectic ruckus of Toronto’s bustling Yonge-Dundas Square. Make it through the multi-sensory overload, however, and you’ll be welcomed into an elegant oasis that seems worlds away from the bustle outside.
From the upright piano and fresh-cut flowers to the plates of velvety coq au vin and the blackboard-featured wine list, the 24-seat space, which opened in March, is serving live entertainment and French-inspired food above the city’s stalwart Senator Restaurant. It’s also a labour of love for owner Bobby Sniderman.
“We wanted to capture the authenticity of the period,” Sniderman says, referring to the room’s 19th-century wood flooring, Prohibition-era bar, and antique mirrors. “I want people to come here, eat some great food, hear some really great music, and just enjoy being together.”
Warmly lit and charmingly intimate, the Senator Winebar is a welcome escape from the jungle of crowds and cranes of the city’s downtown core.
The Senator Winebar is somewhat of a revival for Sniderman, who has worked in the music industry all his life and still mourns his once-revered Top o’ The Senator jazz venue, which closed next door in 2005. Now together with a team of close collaborators including chef Paul Laforet, bar manager Lorenzo Fattò Offidani, and music journalist Nicholas Jennings, Sniderman sees the wine bar as a new chapter in the effort to preserve this corner of Toronto.
“I’m fighting for the soul of the city,” Sniderman says of the venture, which is marrying live music from artists like Juno Award–winning pianist Julian Fauth with aromatic comfort foods such as pistachio-crusted rainbow trout, tarte tatin, and creative cocktails like the honey-laced Whiskey Hive.
Warmly lit and charmingly intimate, the Senator Winebar is a welcome escape from the jungle of crowds and cranes of the city’s downtown core. Add the musical stylings of Fauth, and the room takes on an understated, speakeasy-vibe that can be otherwise hard to find.
“The big decision was whether we would rejuvenate the music program or not,” Sniderman adds, admitting that live entertainment is a big commitment for any restaurant. With dinner service from Thursday to Saturday and brunch on weekends, the idea is to start slow with a musical lineup of live performances of folk jazz on Fridays and Saturdays—although Sniderman adds there is potential for a jazz brunch in future.
“But not until later,” he says, stressing the need for slow growth. “We want to do it right.”
Photography by Kayla Rocca.
Senator Winebar, 249 Victoria St, Toronto, ON M5B 1V8.
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