Looking for an after dinner drinks place on a Friday night may not be the easiest task. We wanted somewhere we could walk to, that wasn’t overly crowded, and that we didn’t have to wait for a table at. Eventually our walk along Granville Street concluded at Cinema, a Donnelley group venture. I have been here on a couple of occasions. Each time it was because of its easy location, its easy entry, and its ease in getting a drink. The bouncer cards you as you enter. Oddly the Guru (gurucooking.ca) got carded by a bouncer who barely looked 20 himself. The Guru is far from 25, with the peppered hair to prove it. So naturally the rest of us, who too were well over 25 had to be carded before entry was permitted.
Walking in you are bombarded with stimuli. Flashing lights and pounding music, the room shook and spin, and not only because you have been drinking. You feel like there was a battle for what was heard by your ears. It was loud with base from Benny Benassi’s song “Cinema” (a delightful play to hear “Cinema” in “Cinema”, by the way), and noisy with dialog from the movie “Caddy shack”. Both were playing simultaneously in an attempt to gain the attention of all the tables shouting. The lounge was split into two rooms by a wall between the row of booths. We grabbed a booth closest to the entrance, which would later prove to be the best for an easy escape. Clusters of metal lamps and disco balls hung from the ceiling. They added ambience and that party rock feeling, as light refracted over the crowd of people. Air hockey, pin ball, and arcade games were lined up on the right. These made for great reliefs between conversationless moments. The titles are also great to play when drunk or on an awkward first date, especially the one that required the aiming and shooting of a fake rifle. And both of the above scenarios were played out before us this night.
Every night there are different drink specials, tonight was highballs and craft beers. Our table took advantage of both. When time to order our server came and casually sat on one of the three tables that were adjacent to our section of booths. She seemed to hear fine as we shouted out drinks at her. Our orders arrived relatively quick, with everything doubled in alcohol. Although, when a second round was needed she was no where to be found. So to keep the party going I made my way to the bar at the back. Like you would see at a club, there were no high tops for sitting at this bar, those are a few feet in front of it. This bar is meant for quick drinking. You approach the counter and do your best to grab the the attention of the lone bartender. Your goal is to do so before the girl beside you does. There is no line, but in your head you insist you were first. Instead your lonesome self gets the attention of a group of guys perched up at the corner, they have found their spot for the night. You stand on tip toe leaning as far forward as possible. You figure a faked height and a closer proximity to the bartender would help your cause. Eventually you resort to waving money or a plastic card, this works. You scream your order into their ear. Usually your group is right behind you and you are able to pass the drinks back as soon as one comes up. And after a cheers and a “clink” you throw them back and leave the empty shot glasses on the bar. However my group was still seated at our table, and in my slightly inebriated state, walking a few metres with 5 “Tom Collins” was not an easy feat. The bartender attempted to get our server’s attention as she punched in an order a few feet away. But she claimed to be too busy to help. So I was given a serving tray and sent on my way. Our server did however come back to our table to retrieve the tray and empty glasses. There was no further explanation or exchange of words.
Good thing we weren’t here to eat, I have yet to find one Donnelley group establishment that serves a decent meal. Each location has a slightly different menu, with a few over laps in some, and nothing out of the ordinary at most. Each one sounds good in writing, looks good in presentation, but taste bland when eating. Here are a couple I have tried in the past and regretted having done so.
The “Quinoa salad” is made with mixed dried fruits and nuts, cucumber, tomato, cilantro, and fresh mint, all in a harissa vinaigrette, and topped with a crispy flatbread cracker. There is an option to add in either free range chicken or wild bc salmon at an additional charge. Who was I kidding when I thought ordering a salad at a bar was a good idea? The nuts were stale, and something in the mix tasted rancid. But nothing must have been as I didn’t conclude the night with stomach problems. This tasted off on first bite, but I forced my way through it, to not waste my money (Asian problems). And even though I hated it, I got what I didn’t finish packed up to go, only to throw it out at home.
“Poutine Lyonnaise”. Thick cut fries and Village Co. cheese curds, coated in a garlic gravy, then topped with a soft poached egg. As is the case with most poutines there is not enough cheese curds. And here the gravy wasn’t hot enough, to melt it to that a gooey stringy texture that is so much fun to pull out and eat. The egg was a new spin for me. Once pierced the yolk provided an additional textural element. But other that that and the colour, it didn’t do much more to help excel the dish.
Would I come back? – Chances are yes, but not by choice. Only by circumstance and on the insistence of someone else. I am too old to enjoy a space where I cannot hear my companions, and rely on large amounts of alcohol to be entertained. I value good food and a great setting with my company.
Would I recommend it? – Yes. Each one of the Donnelley Group’s lounge & bar establishments are located in high traffic strips. They are seen as the go-to for a late night of drinking. Here the lights are dim, the music is loud, and there is a buzz in the air. And tonight at “Cinema” this was exactly the case. For those looking for a that rowdy night without the sweaty dance floor, this is good destination. No cover charge, plenty of seating, and a bar with lots to mix from. However talking consisted of yelling and pseudo sign language. At one point our group gave up and resorted to playing on our phones to keep entertained. It was for this reason that we changed destinations for the second time that night.