Toronto's Barbershop Speakeasy - The Gift Shop
Having the opportunity to travel for work allows me to check out cool places all over the world. Admittedly, sometimes I feel jealous of the people living in the cities I visit and find myself thinking “I wish Toronto had something like this” or “If I lived here I would visit XYZ place all the time!” I am embarrassed to admit, because I am always away or sleeping (when I’m home) I barely give Toronto a chance to dazzle me with its own variety of quirky and off the wall places.
Do you ever do this? Forget to play tourist in your own town and enjoy things that are closer to home? I am totally guilty. When a colleague told me about “The Gift shop” downtown Toronto it actually made me feel I had to go. I’d long admired the unique bar scene in other cities like Manchester and Budapest. With my man in tow, we set out for Toronto’s very own hidden speakeasy – with a barbershop façade.
The Gift Shop is located on Ossington St. and even though I knew what I was looking for and had Google maps running I still almost walked by the Gift Shops’ storefront. Neon signs light the windows with promises of a neat haircut. Its thrilling to open the front door of a closed shop and feel it push away with ease, to the back of the shop is a little door exuding a warm glow – that’s how I knew it was the one!
The Gift Shop is delightfully intimate with space for only 18 patrons – we considered ourselves super lucky as a little table (read: perch) was available the moment we walked in. From that moment on we witnessed group after group being turned away. (Don’t let this put you off, the hostess was super sweet and took numbers from each group to invite them back when a space opened up). Tea lights create a soft glow throughout the room and the relaxed chatter is delightfully soothing amongst the retro tunes humming in the background.
However, when we first arrived there was a table of three people who I swear could have outdone the cheer of a football stadium in sound decibel terms. Unfortunately due to the size of the bar it was SO disruptive, albeit entertaining. The room was tense as one woman shrieked away singing to herself in intervals, her companions laughing along. The upside to this was the telling eye contact and silent laughter between everyone else in the bar. Nothing brings people together like someone else acting a fool.
The cocktails were simply delightful and you could sense the carefulness and intention put into each creation. They were served at the perfect temperature chilled and refreshing but not so cold it knocks you into last winter. I didn’t even realize this was a thing that I would notice! Who am I? Noting the temperature of my perfectly crafted cocktail. (Ha!) The drink menu is printed magazine style and changes seasonally, we enjoyed the several drinks including one called Mr. Bananaman.
Guys this is the perfect place for a date or one on one catch up. Drinks are a bit on the pricier side (for a girl from the suburbs) but well worth it when you combine the quality of the cocktails with the divine ambiance.