Neighbourhood: Osborne Village
Address: 22-222 Osborne St
Down a set of steps under an unmarked awning and past double doors reading “Vandelay Industries”, a nondescript swinging door opens onto a dreamy, charming world. Besides a few electric wall sconces, the romantic lighting is courtesy of wax-dripping tapers on every table and a curlicued chandelier. Mismatched antique chairs, reclaimed wood, and fussy patterned china play off winking touches like a back corner wallpapered with vintage recipes, or the hollowed-out novel that brings the cheque with an auspicious flourish.
With no phone, no reservations, and a social media presence that only Seinfeld fans will hunt down, Sous Sol may frustrate the modern diner’s need to digitally scope every aspect of an experience before making the trek to eat out. Cheekily doling out a liberal dash of mystery, this neo-speakeasy creates a dining experience that thrives on hush-hush theatricality but warmly welcomes those who seek it out.
Speakeasies have been trending in hubs like New York and Chicago for years, playing to Jazz Age aesthetic by hiding chic cocktail spaces behind unmarked doors and fake businesses. Libations raise the ante on their Prohibition Era counterparts, with craft cocktail lists as carefully curated as the menu. Sous Sol hits all these marks, serving creative drinks, stellar food, and unbeatable atmosphere.
Helmed by some of the minds behind Sydney’s at the Forks (including head chef Michael Robins), fine dining influence shines through the ever-changing menu. Though updated weekly, the collection of cheffy French classics is always sure to raise the bar on cuisine while keeping the familiar feeling of comfort food – like all French menus, there is no fear of butter here.
Meat is showcased in divine preparations that follow the tenants of haute cuisine, from surpassingly rich duck confit to perfectly seared and juicy beef noisette, topped with a decadent round of foie gras and served, on one visit, atop a dreamy sherry demiglace. Lean horse tartare finished with an orange orb of yolk gains a light briny note from chopped capers, accenting the richness of the jewel-pink meat.
Fish is also handled deftly. An exquisite piece of pan fried sea bream on one visit was crisp and flaky, served skin-on. A scattering of kale, sautéed leeks, plump capers, whole hazelnuts and chopped eggs cloaked in a light, zingy mousseline delivered a perfectly balanced complement.
Indulgence is the name of the game for sides like thinly sliced potatoes dauphinoise, (a popular recurring menu item) bathed in rich cream sauce, or pillowy ricotta dumplings, redolent of brown butter.
The restaurant’s sense of humour (you may find rubber chickens hiding throughout the room) makes its way onto the menu in the form of playful appetizers and wild cocktails, like addictively tender frogs’ legs, fried until crisp in airy herbed batter, or a tall rum-based concoction lit on fire and delivered to the table with a housemade marshmallow and mini roasting stick.
With a charming blend of craft, elegance, and playfulness, it’s clear that despite its best efforts, this gem won’t stay hidden for long. Sous Sol is open Fri-Sun 5 pm-2 am.