Neighbourhood: Exchange District
Address: 91 Albert St
Daytime cafes are having a welcome resurgence in Winnipeg and chefs Kyle Lew and Kristen Chemerika’s (Chew, Store Next Door) newest venture, Lark, brings fresh interpretation to a menu filled with afternoon staples of sandwiches and salads.
Salads veer away from typical greens and dressing sides, instead becoming the main event thanks to creative flourishes. Take, for example, the sans-lettuce smoked mackerel salad: split red lentils, flavour-packed pickled carrots and heaps of fresh cilantro are dressed in a ginger and wasabi aioli, cleverly juxtaposing the brininess of the mackerel.
Sandwiches are prepared with daily-baked baguettes, buns and buttery croissants. Crisp pickled fennel, a slightly acidic and sweet anise-like pop of flavour, elevates a generous cut of juicy porchetta. Grainy apple mustard and roasted garlic spread work to bring back a sense of familiarity to pork. A veg-friendly kale and roasted zucchini sandwich exudes Middle Eastern flair. Garlicky red lentil hummus and herby za’atar deliver memorable spice.
“Keith makes a mean mac and cheese,” our server exclaimed on one visit, with so much gusto that expectations were particularly high when it landed on the table. Smothered in mornay sauce (bechamel combined with shredded cheese), it’s a decadent version of the comfort food staple. Pickled fennel adds an unexpected twist to the mix, delivering a hit of acidity and sweetness to the sharp cheesiness of the mac, and seasoned focaccia crumbs coat the top, packing crunch and punch.
An airy bed of sweet potato puree isn’t what you’d expect for shakshuka, but as most dishes go here, it’s these twists on familiarity that kick it up a notch and make Lark worthy of praise. Kale stewed with peppers and onions pool in the centre of the puree with baked eggs, harmonizing sweetness of the potato with a green bitterness. Lime crema adds some zip to the mix.
Before leaving, make sure to peruse the seemingly mile-long display of fresh-baked bread and treats (bagels are a hit) that fill the cafe with its addictive bakery scent.
Mismatched floral backed chairs, a gilded tin ceiling and modern touches create a distinct personality to the light-filled space. True to its namesake, Lark delivers on mischief and charm, bringing an unexpected touch of whimsy to daytime eats.