Low-key, jazzy music fills The Nook. This new cafe-meets-lounge on Gottingen is, in fact, incredibly low-key in general. There's a warm, slightly industrial feel to the space that feels very in step with how this part of Gottingen is developing. Natural light floods in through a big window at the front that is lined with the jagged puffs of leaves sprouting from an assortment of planters.
There is a lot of texture in the space: the ceiling lights are given a dull, golden glow with a covering of burlap, while other bulbs burn naked and bright in rustic, wire-guarded pendants. From walls to tables and chairs, woods and wicker mix with glass and plastic with an easy style. Two tables are tucked into the shadowy namesake nook in the wall behind gauzy curtains. It's nice.
My friend Heath and I peruse the chalkboard menus at the counter late on a Saturday morning–both breakfast and lunch are available, so it takes awhile to nail down our picks. Our server offers us a printed menu, too, to make browsing easier. Heath eventually orders a smoked salmon bagel ($8) and blueberry-basil lemonade ($3.75) while I get the figgy piggy sandwich ($10) and a double latte ($4.50). We also decide to get the jerky and pickles ($5) on the side.
We grab a table, tasty lemonade in hand, and a few minutes later the latte is delivered. It's great. The Nook uses coffee from Laughing Whale, a wonderful roastery from Lunenburg, and while there's no fancy artistry in the pour, it's a well-made drink.
It's not long before our friendly server drops by with the food. The pickle plate is a cute, restrained dish: it's just four crisp dill pickles and a half-dozen small strips of Roseland Farm's beef jerky with a little bowl of dijon mustard for dipping the gnarled, black strips of meat. I end up wishing for maple infusion in the dijon since the bitterness of the pickles could use a sweet counterpoint.
We're glad to have ordered the pickle plate since the sandwiches have no garnish salad and sit friendless on their plates. I truly believe that if you're going to do a simple sandwich–no crunchy slices of vegetables, pickles or chips on the side –the customer should walk away without surrendering anything more than a 10 dollar bill after tax and tip. Anything more than $7.50 on the menu and, frankly, I expect, at least a couple of pickles with a sandwich.
In this case it also would also be nice to see something with a bit of crunch or acid on the plate since neither sandwich is very well-balanced.
A great smoked salmon sandwich needs the pop of brightness found in the salty bud of a caper or a few drops from a lemon to cut through the fattiness of the fish. Without any sharpness, after all, a sandwich can't help but be dull. This sandwich benefits from the solid foundation of a St. Viateur bagel and it's topped with Ratinaud's smoked salmon, cucumber, green onion and a mild lemon-dill cream cheese. It's a nice-looking sandwich and still quite good, but capers or pickled onions would bring it to another level.
The figgy piggy is also good. An open-face sandwich on wonderful, nutty multigrain bread from the fantastic Gold Island Bakery, the "figgy" is a fig cream cheese, while the "piggy" is salty prosciutto given a slight toast. Balsamic onion relish gives a nice sweet bite while a mostly flavourless pile of diced tomato just seems to fill space. It's altogether nice, though does feel slightly overpriced.
Though I'd like to see a bit of menu development, there are some solid snack ideas here that support a very well-conceived beverage program. I'd bet The Nook is only going to get better.
The Nook on Gottingen
2116 Gottingen Street
Tue-Fri, 8am-8pm; Sat-Sun 9am-8pm
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