Y’know those times where there is just so much hype for a restaurant that when you finally get to go, it just doesn’t meet your expectations? This wasn’t one of those times. Bar Raval (@) is worth the hype.
Located on the southeast corner of College and Palmerston, Bar Ravel is easily the hottest restaurant opening in recent months. The four of us came by at 6:30 on a Friday evening and it was packed. People were already being waitlisted.
The space features a gorgeous curvy wooden bar. It’s absolutely stunning (and I would certainly hope so as it apparently cost $200,000 according to Toronto Life). Bar Raval isn’t very large and the most important thing to note is that except for a handful of stools, it’s standing room only. So come prepared with comfy shoes. After a couple hours here, I didn’t realize how tired my feet were until we had the chance to sit at our next destination.
Try to grab a spot along the bar or one of the several barrels (which serve as tables) where your group can huddle around. It’s not the most comfortable space but the food and drinks are excellent.
They’ve developed an extensive menu of Spanish tapas – small plates which are eaten with your hands or accompanying toothpicks. The menu includes a section of canned seafood (some of which are canned in-house), cheese, charcuterie and pintxos. While the portions are small, they sure pack in a ton of flavour into each bite.
Bar Raval is open everyday from 8am till 2am featuring a separate breakfast and lunch menu. During the morning and day services, they actually lay all the food out on the bar, allowing you to take dishes as you please. But beware, it can be quite dangerous when it comes time to paying the bill. It ain’t cheap here!
Drink-wise, they have an incredible selection of cocktails. And if you have a hard time deciding, you can always ask one of the bartenders to make something off-menu, which we did. We didn’t have a cocktail we didn’t enjoy:
Rosé Fizz – Croft Pale PX, lemon, sugar, egg white, Peychaud’s, rosé cava ($11)
Jack Knife – Cynar, Osborne Oloroso, Tio Pepe, yellow chartreuse, Peychaud’s bitters ($12)
Give Me Back the Night – Bulleit Rye, Lucano, Gentian, Casa Mariol, squid ink ($15)
My personal favourite: @King_of_Ginger – Lot 40 Bowmore, Averna, ginger, lemon, bee pollen honey, egg white ($16)
Naughty Nurse – Lustau Oloroso, white port, Campari, lemon, cinnamon grenadine ($15)
We started out with some Tomato Bread ($3.50). It’s definitely one of the lighter dishes on the menu. The simplicity of it really allows the flavour of the tomatoes shine. While enjoyable, it wasn’t as memorable as the other dishes we ordered.
Up next was an order of Chorizo ($6.25) with some Bread ($1.90) to accompany it. Loved it. A nice amount of kick and not at all dry. A fantastic drinking snack.
Another simple dish we ordered was the Jamon & Manchego ($8). It’s literally ham and cheese on bread. But boy was it ever good (and pricey at $8 for 2). If only these were the kinda ham and cheese sandwiches I had for lunch.
Being a fan of mackerel, we had to order the Smoked Mackerel ($11) which they preserve in house. These oily (in a good way!) bite-sized pieces of fish just melted in our mouths. A must-order for mackerel fans.
One of my favourite dishes of the evening was the Stracciatella & Boquerones ($7 for 2). Topped with parsley oil, the creaminess of the cheese and the brininess of the anchovies hit it out of the park for me. Highly recommended!
Another must-order is the Morcilla & Egg ($8 for 2). A piece of bread is topped with blood sausage and a quail egg with a gooey yolk. The blood sausage was so moist and decadent. Who needs to go to McDonald’s after drinking? Bar Raval has got you covered. We enjoyed it so much we were toying around with the idea of ordering a second round of them.
Up next was the Octopus ($9) which consisted of tender sliced up tentacles you eat with a toothpick. Grant Van Gameren sure knows his way around an octopus.
The last dish we ordered was the Pig Cheeks in Cider ($9). The bite-sized pieces of pig cheeks were prepared with chorizo. The pig cheeks had this really nice sweetness to it and the accompanying bits of chorizo added a nice kick. Another winning dish!
Needless to say, we were really impressed with Bar Raval. Sure, it’s standing room only and yes, you’ll be emptying your wallets here, but the food and drinks are really top-notch. Like I said, Bar Raval is worth the hype.
At a glance:
- Brought to us by Grant Van Gameren (Bar Isabel) and his partners Michael Weber and Robin Goodfellow who both man the bar
- Spanish tapas: small plates which are either eaten with your hands or toothpicks
- Aside from a handful of stools, they are standing room only
- Open everyday from 8am to 2am; different menu for breakfast and lunch; No reservations
- Pricey (you’ll end up spending a lot!) but the food and drinks are amazing
- Must-orders: Stracciatella & Boquerones and Morcilla & Egg
- Favourite cocktail: @King_of_Ginger
Ratings (out of 5):
- Food: 4.5 stars
- Service: 3 stars
- Atmosphere: 4 stars