It’s before noon on a Saturday morning and Lili and Oli is already full with people who prefer the coffee shop to their home office. Some have brought their offspring. Others, dogs. A gentle wheaten terrier has taken an interest in the Burrito Project meal in my bag. The place is homey, a soundless TV showing football matches (not American) sits above the bar, the noise level is tolerable to slightly intolerable and occasionally drops to allow the Bob Dylan soundtrack to shine, and Wifi is free. It’s no wonder the place gets full fast.
When it comes to independent coffee places around the city, everywhere has good coffee. Lili and Oli sticks to basics. A few fancier drinks are on offer, but nothing that could accidentally be mistaken for a cake in a cup. Coffee is well bodied, chocolatey even, certainly strong. The barista boys make pretty cafe lattés with heart-shaped designs for a crew of locals that perches on the stools at the bar beside the counter. The espresso drinks are snapped up and downed. There is a small selection of basic pastries including muffins, cookies (those Stefanie ones), tarts, chocolatines, and croissants. Again, simplicity is key. The board on the wall mentions sandwiches and salads, but I don’t notice any at this time of day (10:30ish on a Saturday morning). The teas available include a selection by Mighty Leaf.
What matters most in coffee places, at least to me, is decor, lighting, temperature, noise, availability to access the internet, and seating.
Decor: Decor is reminiscent of the surrounding stores — weathered white shelves bedecked with coffee tins, mugs, antiques and 50’s coffee related posters.
Seating: The seats and tables are placed somewhat close together, but there’s still enough space to back up one’s chair without slamming into a neighbour. The tables hold a laptop and a cup, but not much more. However, at certain times of day, every table gets taken and finding a seat involves the patience to wait or luck. There are two bar counters with stools where one can wait or just perch. Also, there’s a couch for anyone lucky enough to snag it.
Connecting: Several outlets are available along the walls, allowing for those who need to be plugged in to find a power source. Wifi is available and seems to work fine.
Lighting: The front windows are pretty bright, though on a cloudy day, the place seems a bit dim. I prefer bright spaces. The lighting provided is “intimate.”
Noise: When full, the place gets pretty loud. There’s the espresso bar, first of all, with the milk steamer. Chatter can be overwhelming. At other times, it’s quieter, but never completely quiet. At this very moment, I hear a Bob Dylan soundtrack, some porcelain rattling, and about two medium level conversations. Earlier, I couldn’t hear Bob, but the place sounded like a flock of birds twittering away.
Lili and Oli is located at 2515 Notre Dame. Hours: M-Th 7 a.m.-10pm, Fri 7 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sat and Sunday 8 a.m. to 8p.m. Coffee prices: $2 for a filtered coffee, $2.50 for an espresso, and $3 for a latté.