What's the vibe:
Previously an Indian buffet restaurant, this King West spot is now unrecognizable as a sophisticated new café and bar. Coffee, Oysters and Champagne, set inconspicuously below street level next to the Royal Alexandra Theatre, is giving Torontonians an "excuse to feel boujee on the regular". But with surprises around every corner, the fancy lounge is anything but ordinary.
The decor is reminiscent of a Parisian bistro – and as you tuck into the titular coffee, oysters, plentiful champagne, you could believe you're in the sixth arrondissement and not on King Street West if you squint a little. With its pale pink walls, banquettes and bar stools, combined with gold accents and a tiled floor that just screams out for a shoe pic, it's a perfectly pleasant way to enjoy a morning coffee (weekdays see COC service coffee addicts from 7 am) or a glass of bubbly after work (doors close at 2 am every evening).
One look at the menu – which quotes Tom Waits/Fall Out Boy – will confirm that while this classy cafe-cum-wine-bar seems straightforward, there's so much more than meets the eye. "Champagne for my real friends. Real pain for my sham friends," it reads. Touché.
While the menu may seem a little scarce, servers can provide more information about their cocktail and dinner offerings – and be prepared to stay much longer than you intended.
What to drink:
Coffee is available iced and hot from local roasters, and is the perfect pairing to the pastries that are available throughout the day.
COC offers the largest selection of "sparkles" in the city – but even if you're not a fan of bubbles, you'll want to check out their champagne fridge at the back of the restaurant (trust us on this one).
Cocktails are also available if you don't mind pressing your servers a little. It's a worthwhile endeavour – our favourite tipple involved an Empress 1908 Gin that was briefly set on fire.
What to eat:
As you might expect, the three pillars of COC are very well represented. The oyster selection changes daily and comes with a variety of dressings, from the usual mignonette and lemon suspects all the way through to the more surprising (but no less appetizing) duck and sherry combo.
While it's impossible to tell you everything Coffee, Oysters and Champagne has to offer without totally blowing its cover, we would be remiss not to inform you that a hidden menu goes way beyond these "three simple things done really well," as their website would have us believe.
Executive chef Chris Wilkinson, who previously worked at the Broadview Hotel, has created an exciting menu that's both refined and accessible.
Order 'Duck Two Ways' and enjoy the bird in deliciously tender slices of breast meat with a side of confit (much to our regret, our server informed us on our departure that a third way can be requested for a foie gras addition to the dish).
'Steak and Bones' offers diners the chance to taste both steak tartare and bone marrow (subsequent bone luge: optional), both equally delicious.
When eating time is over, there are plenty of other roaring surprises to entertain guests – but you'll just have to figure them out for yourself.
Dinner and drinks for two: about $150
214 King St W, 416-408-4044; sipshucksip.com