We loved the original Carens for the wine-and-cheese approach to solving built-up stress. At least that’s the way we saw what Carens has been offering. Since the Yorkville location is no more, we had to check up on whether the Rosedale reincarnation was up to the task.
Carens presented itself with a bright orange framed doors and windows (cheddar, anyone?), a tiny street-side patio, and a wordmark to give off an old copperplate engraving feel. The rest of the exterior was considerably darker and more conservative, which fitted well with our understanding of how Carens presented itself – classic with a twist of originality.
The tiny outdoor area with some wooden patio tables, bright green pillows, and orange blankets were probably paying homage to the beautiful backyard space in the original location. If that was the intention, the elements did not merely live up to the romantic feel that the old patio had projected.
The interior was also subdued in tones with olive leather banquettes, dusty blue walls, and wood throughout. Through the brick wall details with their modern sconce accents, we felt a bit of a mid-century style coming through.There was a piano to welcome us at the front - an element from their previous location, making a connection through time. We noticed the two lovely skylights and large mirrors adding the needed width to the interior.
Our party was seated in the back area that was transformed with a narrowing window pane elements which created an illusion of entering another room with skylights and a black wall with a large gas fireplace.
Germaio, our very polite waiter, presented a fairly basic menu on a tired, crumbly paper. Despite being a cheese-and-wine place, there were surprisingly many non-dairy options to choose from. We asked for Salade Nicotine and their Lamb Rack Special, while light piano music from the front carried through the long room to reach us.
A curious way to bump our appetite was fries covered with crushed green peppercorns - a spicy and smoky flavour encouraged with a side of an aioli. We also tried their warm olives, bathed in oil. It took around 15 minutes to get our mains. Looking around, there was mostly a more mature crowd, probably from the affluent Rosedale surrounding us.
The Salade Nicotine was presented with all the ingredients separated, which didn't let the flavours come together. The lightly seared tuna was light and tender, accompanied by meaty anchovies to double up our fish portion and a scattering of the greens capers.
We decided to try the Rack of Lamb special, presented with the bones extravagantly pointed out. The dish included roasted potatoes, lightly fried apple, and a tiny squash - well-rounded, unique sides to go with the meat. The light gravy sauce floating around elevated our enjoyment of the roasted veggies. Ma Chéri asked for the lamb to be cooked as per chef’s recommendations, which was medium rare. The meat was a challenge to remove from the bone. There were also areas of dense fat to watch out for. We were not overly impressed with both dishes.
To be perfectly fair, we loved Carens for the experimental cheese boards, as we learned about the noble union of wine and cheese back then. Being on our dairy-free diet during that visit, we did not have a chance to fully appreciate Carens original specialty, and we did not find that much else exciting on the offer.
P.S. The bright orange door leading to the washroom was a curious addition. With a cellar feel and a stone wall, there were many eclectic elements everywhere, such as an unhung collection of mirrors and an 80s skier mural photo.