Friday, April 08, 2005

Kensington on the upswing

Kensington Market was just a gorgeous place to be this afternoon, in the warm air and sunshine. I'd have photos for you, but I was soon carrying so many bags of groceries that my hands were full.

So far, it seems, the inevitable gentrification of Kensington is going surprisingly well; more West Queen West than Queen Not-So-West (as I now think of Queen east of Spadina). Which is to say, no chain restaurants and big-box retail outlets have sprouted yet, but a number of genuinely interesting shops and bars have recently sprung up. I was on Augusta on a Saturday night last month and was startled to find it swarming with 19-year-old indie kids, most of them trying to get into Supermarket. Some of them were also there for the latest event at XPACE; after seeing that space go through a dozen dodgy incarnations over the last decade, it's nice to see it finally occupied by a decent gallery, which has become a real party and hangout spot. Also on Augusta, that restaurant at the corner of Oxford seems close to completion; I forget what it's going to be called, but I know food writers have been salivating in anticipation for months, as it will be the all-organic pet project of one of the city's big-name chefs. The very shiny new Freshmart just down the street doesn't have much Kensington artsiness about it, but it's run by the Zimmermans, who have been selling groceries in Kensington since before you were born, so it's hard to really complain.

My discovery of the day, though, was the brand-new Alchemy Bakery, also on Augusta at Oxford. It offers a wide range of familiar and exotic rolls and breads; prices are reasonable for artisanal baked goods, and for the financially challenged among us there's a good day-old shelf. The highlight is a row of jars of flavoured shortbreads: from lemon-cardamom, chocolate-ginger, and lavender, to savories like curry. They're AMAZING. Check the place out, if you get a chance; help keep them open, so I can get good bread & cookies close to home!

Update: Thanks to the Globe and Mail for filling me in on what that place across from Alchemy is going to be: "Stephen Gardner, owner/chef of the popular Queen West vegetarian resto Fressen, is turning the old Victorian into the Urban Herbivore, a vegan cooking school that will offer prepared foods when it opens in two weeks." So in fact it's not exactly a restaurant, but I was close.


Anonymous Jan said...

I must go to XPace and now you are tempting me with baked goods. Hey, have you had the chocolate pepper cookies from Clafouti? Yum! and genuinely spicy too. I must be blind cos I haven't noticed any new restaurant going up at Oxford. I have to look more closely. Any time you want to show me XPace or have something from Alchemy, let me know. As for Freshmart, after such a long wait, I was never more disappointed in the bland offerings there.

Jan (flickr jan1ce)

10:33 p.m., April 12, 2005  
Blogger Nadia said...

I might be wrong about the space at Oxford and Augusta being the new high-end restaurant... the building I'm thinking of is the one that used to be Eza Wear -- right on the corner. It looks like it's turning into a sleek minimalist establishment of some kind, and I seem to remember reading that the resto was going to be there.

11:41 p.m., April 13, 2005  

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