For the past few weeks, sliding and sloshing through what have become claustrophobic tunnels had slowly chipped away at my moxie, the weight of winter pressing down on my shoulders as heavily as the year's snowfall. It reached a point where I would rather sit at home, blankly watching the fog creep up and down my window panes, than continue to scramble over snowbanks and slip on the endless banana peels the sidewalks had become.
What got me out of the house? A hair appointment.
I've been going to FRED. for years. Since my first haircut there, I haven't been able to imagine going elsewhere. But rarely have I had time to sit down in the cafe for anything beyond a coffee or a babycake. In that brief period where the cafe scaled down to fit in a furniture store, I didn't really think I missed it. But it turns out I did.
It's the greeting I get as soon as I breeze into the door, a genuine smile and an effusive hello, that reminds me how much I like the FRED. cafe. The service there is every bit as good as the great service in the salon. Maybe even better.
The space has always been beautiful. It used to be a bright, clean white. Now it's dipped in black, the bright white pipe and beams the last vestiges of its bright past. Huge, black globe pendant light fixtures hang like dark spun sugar, with matte walls, gleaming glass, grids of metal and planks of wood creating a chic textural mix. Oil paintings bring pops of colour to the room, while frames with pockets holding leafy plants bring even more life to the walls.
I order a latte ($4.50) and mention I'm interested in food, too, and bend to look at the display. The server, Eric, asks if it's my first time at the cafe. I shrug out a lie and say yes—I haven't tried the new small plate menu yet, so I feel it's a fair fib. He asks if I'd like breakfast or lunch. I pick the former. He tells me about the two breakfast sandwiches they have, recommending the Joel's Favourite Breakfast ($8), a combination of prosciutto, portabello mushroom and havarti on a croissant. I add a mimosa ($7), too.
I grab a seat in the dining room. It's empty aside from one little girl, a mess of brown bangs in a striped sweater. She's curled onto one of the sleek black couches, bathed in the bright light reflected from tall snowbanks, eating a brownie and tapping on a smart phone between bites. She's clearly a familiar face—the server cheerfully checks in on her often. Her mom eventually appears from the salon. As others come into the cafe, they are also greeted warmly, and checked in on now and then, just as I am, to make sure they're still happy.
My mimosa is delivered almost immediately, along with a glass of water and cutlery. The frothy latte comes a bit later, served in their standard metal cup, which keeps it nice and hot.
The sandwich is served on a bamboo board. A flattened, crumbling croissant, it doesn't look like much. But it's a really great sandwich: a balanced combination of fatty, salty, earthy and savoury, with just a hint of subtle sweetness from the croissant itself, and a generous sprinkle of pepper.
I get a chocolate babycake—a mini-cupcake—with Baileys frosting. Moist and not too sweet, with lush and fluffy icing, it's a tiny, sweet exclamation point on what has felt like a pampered brunch. I leave with a bounce in my step, not even thinking about the snow. a
2606 Agricola Street
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