‘This popcorn chicken is awesome,’ my TOQUE Partner Chris exclaims before popping another one into his mouth. ‘And the fish and chips are fantastic, too.’ I look over at Chris and note that he’s managed to squirrel most of the dishes close to his side of the table. I let it slide. At least I’ve still got the Thai noodle bowl in front of me. Along with a tall can of Wellington’s ‘Kickin’ Back’ IPA.

My attention turns back to Edwin Hammond, General Manager of The Bookshelf’s second storey eBar and Greenroom, as I try to wrap my head around what’s happened up here ‘What we’ve essentially done here is build a gourmet concession stand,’ Edwin notes, ‘for folks looking for great food before, after, and even during movies playing at The Bookshelf Cinema.’ I look around the place. I was literally just here for the Royal City Roller Derby holiday party in December, and yet I can hardly recognize the space. I note the new living wall, the incredible antique projector (which is in fact the Cinema’s original projector from decades past), new live edge tables, open kitchen, and brand new cinema entrance which is now located here, in the Greenroom.

‘Basically,’ Edwin continues, ‘we had to shuffle everything around to accommodate our new elevator.’ Ahh yes, The Bookshelf’s elevator – a project that began a few years back as a crowd funding initiative to make this cultural hub fully accessible. And that’s finally, happily, come to fruition. ‘And while we shuffled things,’ adds Edwin, ‘we built awesome stuff too. Like new accessible washrooms. An accessible ramp from The Greenroom into the eBar. And this concession stand.’

Or, more appropriately, this gourmet concession stand.

With a menu developed by locally-grown Executive Chef Adam Calzonetti (who’s worked under acclaimed chefs Gordon Ramsay and Sursur Lee, and has been featured on a slew of The Food Network’s shows), this place is definitely more elevated than your typical cinema popcorn and candy stand. Featuring items including the aforementioned ‘Cinema Popcorn Chicken’ (chicken literally breaded in popcorn with adobo ranch dipping sauce), ‘Crispy Cod & Chips’ (house battered cod, dill tartar sauce, fresh cut fries), and ‘Thai Noodle Bowl’ (chow mein, carrot, edamame, mango, sunflower, cabbage, kale, green onion, peanut coconut dressing).

And also dishes like ‘Pimento Cheese Torilla Burro’ (roasted sweet pepper cream cheese, pico, crema), ‘Handmade Cornish Pastry’ (braised beef, potato, suede, or chicken curry), ‘Chef’s Feature Sandwich’ (local ‘Grain Harvest’ bread, market meats, market cheeses), a handful of fresh bowls (including ‘The Caribbean’, with jerk chicken, brown rice, black and red beans, kale, mango, cucumber, johnny cake, avocado, coconut lime dressing), and more. (To note: there’s still regular ol’ popcorn available, and soda pop too, for those traditionalist types.)

‘So you can order any of these items and bring them into the cinema?,’ I ask Edwin as Chris polishes off the last nuggets of popcorn chicken. Edwin nods. ‘And beer too?’ He nods again. ‘We can plate all of these dishes in biodegradeable clam shell containers so they’re easy to bring in with you to the movie. And for the early show, you can even plan to come to The Greenroom for dinner – first come, first served – before the movie begins, save your seat in the cinema, and then continue noshing in the cinema throughout the showing.’

Movies never tasted this good.