Monday, June 6, 2011

Voulez-Vous Cafe

 Why are so many people from the film community opening up cafes? 'Because we're used to working brutally long hours, with little sleep, and it's great preparation for running your own business,' says Voulez-Vous Café owner, Sean Lacey.

With Sean at the helm, Voulez-Vous opened it’s doors in February, 2010 with a mission to serve great coffee  and create a community hub. Located at 1560 Queen St. East, just before Coxwell, it’s a welcome addition to a rapidly changing neighborhood.

The previous tenant, I Deal Coffee, closed at this location, when it’s mammoth roasting operation became an issue with neighbors. Lacy soon found himself working on designs for a friend, with an eye towards opening a restaurant in the space, but when it didn’t materialize, Sean pounced. Negotiating a long term lease with the landlord, he set about realizing a life long dream and opened his own café.

Growing up in Little Italy, Lacy began drinking espresso at an early age, and was lucky to live in one of the few places in Toronto where great coffee could be found and where a passionate coffee culture existed. Old World Coffee was readily available from local Italian grocers, who imported their coffee from back home in Italy, the birthplace of espresso. There were no percolators in little Italy. There were some early espresso machines, and lots of Bialettis but nobody was drinking Folgers, or Sanka, like in my neighborhood. The Italians knew better.

For Sean, the local café was always a place for making a community. ‘I would get together with friends and we would talk for hours over 3, 4 or 5 espressos. But outside of Little Italy nobody knew what an espresso was.’ Lacey reminisces, ‘It wasn’t until Graziano Marchese opened Dooney’s Cafe, on Bloor St. in the late 80’s that Toronto got it’s first Café, espresso bar.’

No wonder Dooney’s became such a local institution, and a second home for writers, film makers, artists and even local celebrities like Margaret Atwood and Jane Jacobs. The arts community was discovering espresso. Others would follow. By 1996, Starbucks opened it’s first stores in Toronto and specialty coffee would never look back.

Following in the family tradition, Lacey’s café journey began with two years of cooking school at George Brown followed by  nearly a decade  of work in film, mostly as a set decorator, or designer.  

Now a days a vibrant café culture is bursting out all over Toronto and one really pleasant aspect about many of these spaces, is the relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. Grab a coffee, get comfortable, read the paper. This is Voulez-Vous. The Café is surrounded by large glass windows, giving it big, open feel and also boasts a rare side patio to take in a few rays as you sip your latte.

In the front window, there are stools and a bar, and a long communal table by the side window, to spread out a little. Comfy arm chairs flank a gas fireplace. Do take note of the main bar, designed and built by one of Sean’s film pals. It’s made from old wooden doors and it’s quite amazing but easy to miss with your attention focused on the coffee and baked goods.

A big part of getting any new café right is getting the coffee right. Choosing a Roaster like Classic Gourmet Coffee, guarantees that the product being served is among the best available. John Rufino, at Classic, has been roasting coffee since the mid ‘70s and has earned a reputation for consistency and quality. Fresh roasted coffee is delivered from Classic’s Concorde facility every other day. Voulez-Vous espressos ($2/3) really show off the rich character of Classic’s espresso roast. My double was nice jolt of flavor, followed by a delicious, frothy Latte, which was also excellent.

Baked goods, cookies, muffins, scones are from Circles & Squares Bakery. Chicken, prosciutto, and zucchini paninis are also available.

Adjoining the café, and taking over the former I Deal Coffee roasting space is an exciting new bakery, Le Matin, which provides Voulez-Vous with its baguettes ($2.50) and croissants ($2.25). The bakery is the latest venture of chef Jean-Pierre Challet, formerly of  Auberge  du Pommier and Le Select Bistro, and whose Ici Bistro is packing them in across town on Manning St.

If you ever needed a sign that a neighborhood is moving on up in a big way, Voulez-Vous and La Matin would be it!

Hours of Operation – M-F 7a.m.- 6 p.m., Sat. 9-6 and Sun. 10-5

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