As the cold weather drags on, it starts to feel like you’ve brought out every trick to stay warm and entertained: some Long Winter nights, a walk through an ice-statue wonderland, some maple-syrup indulging. Just when you’ve started to run out of ideas and winter ennui threatens to set in for real, you suddenly remember — you haven’t been to the yurt yet.
The Ceili Cottage on Queen Street East in Leslieville has set up a hand-painted Mongolian yurt – a circular, semi-permanent tent – on its street-side patio. Bit of an unexpected move from a very Irish establishment, but the nomads of central Asia know how to keep things toasty on a cold night, and there’s no better spot to tuck into oysters and Irish whiskey. In the words of the cottage’s owner, Patrick McMurray, “I think a pub should be small, warm, and inviting. It should be a place to meet your neighbors – a place to keep coming back to. The yurt is just that.”
After crouching to enter through the low, intricately painted doors, you step into the surprisingly tall (21 feet) center of the yurt, and find your seat at one of the dozen wooden, candle-topped tables along its perimeter. The place smells faintly of sheep’s wool, and you hear soft music flowing from the vintage record player in the middle of the room. The warm lighting and intimate atmosphere give you a peaceful, easy feeling — definitely enough to keep the winter blahs at bay.
The yurt’s wooden lattice walls are banded together in traditional Mongolian fashion, using horsehair ropes. One of your friends points upward, and you see that the ceiling is made of intricately arranged wooden poles, each decorated with Mongolian patterns and motifs. The yurt certainly does a good job of keeping off the chill, but you grab a colourful woolen blanket near your table anyhow, to cozy up with your closest friends. Your tastebuds are soon tantalized by freshly shucked oysters, served with homemade seafood-, scotch bonnet-, and mango-inspired sauces. Enjoy these plump, creamy delights alongside a tipple from the Ceili Cottage’s extensive whiskey list – like the smooth, slightly fruity Irishman’s Single Malt. You slurp, sip, and laugh: Winter doesn’t seem so long after all.