Finch’s Tea & Coffeehouse on Pender is a charming, cozy lunch spot that’s just the antidote when you’re looking for an alternative to all the corporate joints and fast food chains that dominate the downtown core. Our only complaint is that its rabid popularity results in long queues and hovering patrons anxiously eyeing tables to find a place to enjoy their lunch. So it was great to hear that Finch’s owners, Jamie Smith and Sheryl Matthews, have opened a second venue to service the burgeoning Strathcona neighbourhood taking over a formerly uninspired corner store. They’ve done an exemplary job of restoring the space and injecting it with a homey feel, taking down its false walls and allowing the brick to shine through, as well as warming up the interior with wood tables and a wood counter fitted with a couple barstools where you can perch for a tea or coffee, and allowing in lots of natural light. It’s an inviting space and one that encourages you to linger.
Strathcona is an up-and-coming neighbourhood but without many easily accessible supermarkets. As its name suggests, this branch of Finch’s is a market that services this need by offering milk, eggs, cream and butter in an old-school Frigidaire, as well as an attractive array of sundries including tinned tomatoes, dried pasta, olive oil and Finch’s blend coffee, all appealingly arranged on a tall shelving unit accessed by a library ladder. Perhaps the most impressive item of décor, in this entirely charismatic venue, is functional – their gold-domed espresso machine, topped with an eagle. Finch’s also serves an impressive array of teas, the tins of which form a simple but charming display against their back wall.
Open from 10-5, Finch’s is a lunch-primary spot and their sandwiches are likely the main draw. The sandwich that many rave about in Finch’s original location – their prosciutto, pear, brie, walnut and balsamic on baguette – is reincarnated here and is just as good. Critically, the pears used are just ripe enough and offer a juicy sweetness that contrasts with the prosciutto beautifully. Their Prosciutto sandwich is stuffed with Edam, lettuce and tomato and this creation worked well – each component was of high quality, the salty prosciutto marrying well with the bright tomatoes and crisp lettuce. Finch’s also offers daily special sandwiches – the day we visited there was Roast Beef as well as Tomato and Bocconcini, an old favourite. We tried this vegetarian option and enjoyed its simplicity which was elevated with the liberal inclusion of basil, a classic combo which balanced the milky cheese with a hint of peppery heat. Sandwiches are simple things but often go so very wrong with mediocre bread, not enough seasoning or sad, uninspired fillings – here, the baguette used has a lovely crisp crust with a chewy interior, the balance of contents to bread is just right, and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic moistens the bread nicely and offers the right savoury tang. Finch’s also offers liberally portioned salads that act as meals in and of themselves, as well as a daily vegetarian soup option, made from scratch. Large brownies and chocolate chip cookies looked too tempting to resist and we sampled the latter which was generously sized, cakey and perfect in its old-fashioned goodness.
With its warm and welcoming design and relaxed atmosphere, Finch’s Market is certainly a much-needed addition for the residents of Strathcona, as well as a worthy destination for those in search of a cozy lunch spot or a sanctuary from the slick coffee franchises that dominate. We predict this will become a favourite hangout for many.