So, since my dumbass decided to call in a major traffic offence last June from the 401 highway when I was traveling through in my personal vehicle on my way home on my days off, I was stuck in attending court in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, as an off-duty police witness. To anyone who hasn’t attended court before for any particular reason, I highly recommend you do so at least once in your life. Once for traffic / provincial offences court, and once for criminal court – just sit in the back gallery and take in the show. Yes, it’s very procedural and long, and everyone refers to each other by “my friend” and old titles, and occasionally speak in a dead language. But, it’s also hugely interesting and a great visage of due process at work.
That said, it can put a hink in your personal schedule. A 9:30 am courtroom start, with minor stuff first, and then the trial I was there for was delayed until 2 pm. So off I went at 11 am, strolling through downtown Kitchener, in look of a funky little spot to enjoy a nice long lunch.
So, out comes Google Maps – a ha, “Rainbow Caribbean Cuisine” on King Street East. I like Caribbean things! Sounds interesting. Walk my ass down there, and – yeah…um, no. One look in the front windows, and I knew it was a no – cafeteria-style cheap seating, torn up and duct-taped over, grungy looking; not what I was looking for today, especially being all gussied up for court.
So, strolling the other way, up King Street West, I came across a little cigar shop that grabbed my attention (the Walper Tobacco Shop, quoted as the oldest tobacco store in Canada, established in 1891 – met Pete the owner, and picked up some NC goodies as outside-the-norm treats for some Cuban friends). It was right at the corner of King and Queen Streets, right by the historic “Walper Hotel” (went to a cousin’s wedding here many years ago – great venue).
But looking at the facade of this cigar shop’s storefront, I noticed what looked like an interesting spot next door. The “TWH Social Bar & Bistro”. Looked interesting enough.
Going through the front doors – confusion and slight disappointment. While the signage was inviting outside, stepping through the first set of glass double-doors revealed…nothing really. Another set of plain, solid double-doors that appeared to be emergency / fire-exit doors from the Walper Hotel. Ok. Must not be anything here then, I thought. Turning around, I noticed a fairly nice and well appointed stairways to my right, leading down to the basement. Not much noise coming from the bowels below, but I decided to creep down and check it out.
I’m so very glad I did.
Two lovely ladies awaited me below, all dressed in classy black semi-formal attire. The stairwell opened up to a long and leanly appointed bistro hiding in the basement. Are you open? “Yes sir, we opened at 11 am. Would you like to sit at the bar, or a booth?” 11:15 am – I was in business.
What a true treat of a place. Classic light-tan sandstone bricks, hand-hewn wood table-tops to the booths, a long marble bar top, herringbone-style tiling patterns throughout, immaculately white open-ceilings, and soft diffused lighting. What an absolute treat! Classic Motown and 70’s-80’s tunes on the speakers, lots of beverage choices, and a very simple but elegant menu to account for a wide array of tastes. Gawd, even though I had apprehension going down those first stairs, the non-dungeon-like and open-atmosphere made it very enjoyable. The small touches even – USB charging outlets at the tables, a nice little wine rack selection, hell, even extremely clean and elegant bathrooms (though the toilet stalls themselves were quite dark).
To start my gastronomic experience here, I indulged in an octopus appetizer. While a bit more firmly cooked and salty than I prefer (though the sweeter tomato-Apple chutney balanced it well), it was still the best I’ve had outside of “La Terraza / Prado 309” in Havana, or from St. Lucia or other Caribbean locales. Considering where I am in Canada, and the logistics involved in getting fresh and good seafood, it was a wonderful treat to have, and still tasted lusciously rich and fresh.
Then, a wonderful Brie, pear and chicken panini, with stellar pub fries and aioli. Fuck, I can’t begin to recollect how many places I’ve been to where the sides are just an afterthought. These were classically good pub fries, dressed up just enough with the aioli.
I finished off with a vanilla Bavarian custard, walnut and hazelnut creme dessert. Lovely.
Talking to the staff, this bistro has only been open an astonishing two-and-a-half weeks!!!! The staff operate like a skilled team already – no delays or screw-ups, no service flaws at all (aside from a playfully-but-accidentally broken glass behind the bar). T he vibe this place gives off is very hip and well-done. The head chef is actually Terry Salmond, runner up from the TV show “Top Chef Canada” (not that I knew that before, or even watched the show itself), but it’s laudable with quite the credential background to him, and the menu is very well done in it’s simplicity. My waitress, Courtney, regardless of the newness of the joint itself, seemed to be enough of a skilled young pro to also be keenly aware enough of my overall enjoyment and interest in being here that she brought me a copy of a local business magazine featuring an article on Mr. Salmond prior to him starting this bistro. Good show – recognizing the branding, and getting it out there.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not a food or restaurant reviewer, or anything along that means. I don’t plan on filling this blog with food or restaurant reviews too (aside with that from Cuba). For the already thousands of viewers that this blog has gathered now, rest assured that I don’t plan on muddying up the waters with that. But along with my mild travels, cigars, and rum enjoyment, I think it’s fair to say that my palate definitely appreciates and recognizes decently finer things – I’d like to think that my waistline bears proof to my years of enjoying some good food spots, and even maybe enjoying some luxuries that some others might not be lucky enough to enjoy, and I’m extremely thankful to have the experiences in life that I’ve had so far. The food displayed here was in that upper stratosphere, and while not Cuba-centric, I thought it definitely deserved mention.
It was just a divinely indulgent lunch, at a fair-enough price, and well-worth the walk into blusteringly-cold downtown Kitchener. It was something that I would expect to find and enjoy in downtown Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Chicago, Boston, Miami, etc., and to be paying at least two times as much. So, I’m definitely glad I kept on following the rabbit hole downwards.
Check out their webpage here at www.twhsocial.com if you’re interested. I’ve got family there in K-W, so I’ll have to make a point of stopping in there again. Definitely worth a try if you pop through Kitchener-Waterloo, in my opinion. Enjoy the experience if you do.