No. 21: Bar Raval
505 COLLEGE STREET, TORONTO, ONTARIO
A VISIT TO THIS STANDING ROOM-ONLY SPANISH-THEMED BAR IS AN EDUCATION.
It is a study, first, in how an inspired, smart design firm (Partisans) and a good batch of African mahogany can transform an ordinary-looking little watering hole into a place of transporting beauty. And next, for anyone who has yet to eat out in Spain, it provides a delightful lesson on what pintxos and tapas are all about. You think fresh seafood is better than tinned? Think again. In Spain, where the fish markets are immeasurably better than our own, many a discriminating consumer still values the tinned goods over the fresh. A small can of top-quality olive oil-packed squid, cockles, octopus or baby eels can easily set you back $50. Showing you why—at a fraction of that cost—is just one small part of Grant van Gameren’s culinary mission. And once you have tried his tinned razor clams, or the sardines, or the firm and mildly smoky oil-packed mackerel, you will understand.
So you can move on to the baby squid braised in pork fat, the toast topped with a slice of blood sausage and a fried quail’s egg, drizzled with brightening parsley sauce, or maybe the salt cod croquetas. The trepidatious would do well to view the bar’s website, which explains the lack of chairs along with helpful suggestions on how to be more social, Spanish-style. The menu is laid out, too, so you can be prepared. But you really don’t need to be. Just try anything. Try it with sherry, of which the variety is extensive—or just a cocktail, each of which is cutting-edge. True to its Spanish roots, the bar opens in the morning for coffee—custom-roasted, of course—and house-baked baguettes, cookies and doughnuts. From there, the place stays open with the full menu on offer till 2 a.m. How’s that for a Spanish lesson?
Monday to Sunday
8:00 PM until2:00 AM
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MAT FABIJANIC