Before the Blake House was the Blake House, it was the Red Lion, a storied old-school British pub. These days, it’s more of an old-school Canadian pub: local beer, poutine, VQA wines and vintage photos of posh, turn-of-the-century Jarvis Street. Co-owner Jim Vasilakakos, who quietly opened the venue over the summer, loves the road out front. “Did you know Jarvis was the first paved street in Toronto?” he asks. It’s one of the facts he picked up during the two weeks he spent at the Toronto archives, where the self-proclaimed history buff thoroughly educated himself about the site of his new pub and sourced images to decorate it.
The Blake House, built in 1891 and named after original owner Edward Blake, has heritage status for being one of the last structures in Toronto to mix Victorian and Second Empire architecture. Walking through, it’s easy to get lost in the historical charm: the scent of the fireplace (recently used), the view through the original stained glass windows and the coziness of the heavy wood. The flat screen TVs, halogen lights and contemporary stonework are all secondary.
The coexistence of past and present speaks to the Canadianness of the place, as do the menus. On tap are such über-Canuck offerings as Waupoos Cider and Muskoka Cream Ale ($6 a pint). The dishes are sourced with Canadian ingredients whenever possible, like the maple-glazed Atlantic salmon ($18). French fries are made with yukon gold potatoes cut by hand.
The Blake House, 449 Jarvis St. (at Carlton St.), 416-975-1867, theblakehouse.ca.