For all the fawning over Richard Florida, Toronto’s “creative class” still finds itself stuck in the abstract. Even those managing to live cubicle-free don’t feel especially futuristic and glamorous when they’re competing for the last seat at Starbucks. The concept of a creative class comes up in the first minute of our chat with Peter Coish, owner of the spanking new Cloud Free Agent Espresso Bar, where he is putting bricks and mortar—and Wi-Fi and coffee and snacks—around Florida’s vision of a mobile workforce of international collaborators.
Located next to the MOCCA on Queen West, the compact café space is buttressed by a roomy fully wired meeting area on the lower level (rentable for $45 an hour, including a pot of coffee). Coish hopes this espresso bar will be the first in a worldwide network of shareable, multi-purpose hubs for “free agents” (writers, freelancers, small and virtual business owners). As a business owner, he is both enabling and leading by example: Cloud Espresso doubles up as the physical locus for his own second business, Cloud Advertising Agents.
Cloud mixes whimsy with a sleek fresh-from-the-Apple-store modernism: poured concrete floors, leather benches, bamboo tabletops and a high-gloss white wraparound counter. The menu’s handwritten aesthetic (courtesy of local illustrator Carolyn Nichilo Verkly) is presented on a wall-mounted screen and notes a lineup of “sammiches” ($5.95).
The sammiches and the rest of the menu represent a coup for the west end; chef Vladimir Martinez was wooed away to Cloud from east-end institution Bonjour Brioche. The men each looked at the Cloud space, but Coish snagged it first; he had noticed Martinez looking at café real estate and was savvy enough to hunt him down and make him a partner. Martinez is visibly excited about designing a menu from scratch, though he took finding his Bonjour Brioche replacement very seriously: “They were amazing to me,” he says. “I can’t just walk away.”
Cloud’s interior is small, leaving Martinez only a couple square feet of preparation space. But his approach fits Cloud’s vision of networked resources: Vladimir makes the specials, like the soup du jour (recently Greek avgolemono, $4.95) and the weekend brunch’s chorizo omelette ($6.95), then draws on others for the rest. Japanese pastry chef Akiko manages the shortbreads and cakes ($3.95), and breads ($2.95) and croissants ($1.95) come from Pain Perdu.
If being a member of the creative class didn’t appeal before, now it comes with free Wi-Fi, as well as fig and prosciutto sammiches. Cubicle-shmubicle.
Cloud Free Agent Espresso Bar, 968 Queen St. W. (at Givins St.), 416-792-6831, facebook.com/cloudespresso.