Of all the watering holes around the country, none evokes such ardent enthusiasm (and sometimes confusion) as Bar Raval, which retains the title of Canada’s Best Bar for a second year, by a wide margin of votes from our judges.
Across an unassuming threshold on an ordinary corner of Toronto’s old Little Italy, the diminutive room enveloped by Gaudí-esque swirls of African mahogany is a place of transporting beauty. Genuinely warm service provides comfort to guests who might not be accustomed to communal oak barrels with standing room only, while the all-day tapas menu—stretching from crema Catalana doughnuts in the morning to tins of silky boquerones late at night—challenges conventional notions of what a bar should be. The list of sherries and rare vermouths is unrivalled. The wine list is terrific. Cocktails, mixed with homemade infusions, ferments and distillates, go beyond the classic interpretations, branching into oxidative, tannic and unexpectedly uplifting savoury profiles. “Bar Raval truly is one of the leaders of the bar industry, not just in Canada but the world,” says one judge. And yet, four years after opening, it hasn’t lost a drop of its immense neighbourhood charm.