Cabbagetown’s Cobourg: A Better Place to Drink

Before everyone does, get yourself to a chic new bar at the corner of Parliament and Winchester. Yes that’s right, in the heart of Cabbagetown, an area that’s – let’s face it – sorely in need of sophistication.

We suspect that the Cobourg will finally provide all the film producers and architects who live a few feet off seedy Parliament Street with a big-city place for a cocktail. And possibly begin a hippification of that entire strip.

Yes, we know about the Laurentian Room, and it’s interesting, but rather quiet. The Cobourg is actually in the same building, the former Winchester Hotel. It’s a narrow, high-ceilinged room with splendid tall windows on the street, a gleaming dark wood bar, restrained Victorian furniture and some pretty big oil paintings. (We like the huge ostriches, and the Regency portrait in the comfortable back room). So far it doesn’t even have a sign, and it’s already frequented by a friendly and easy-going mix of media types, actors, restaurant owners and pretty young locals.

It’s owned and run by husband and wife team John and Laila Jay, long-term Cabbagetown residents with lots of artistic connections. John is a well-known actor who spent 16 years in London working on stage and film (you may recognize him as the poet Rocky Todd in the British TV series Jeeves and Wooster). It was in London that he met the elegant Laila, who was born there.

And it was in London that he acquired the painting after which the bar is named: it’s a ghostly landscape, called The Cobourg, by the Canadian artist Peter Doig, who now has an international reputation. You can see the picture just inside the front door, on your left (and no; it’s not the original – that’s in a bank vault – but this is close enough).

You’ll recognize John as the unfailingly polite and unfailingly well-dressed host behind the bar: an XYYZ man himself, he’s usually in a suit and a crisp pocket square.

And you’d better get there quickly, before the crowds.

The Cobourg, 533 Parliament Street. (416) 913-7538
. Open seven nights a week.

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