The bar counter, in Corian has original bar stools created specially by the +tongtong studio, that resemble the “make-shift” chairs often found in the tapas bars in down town Barcelona.The atmosphere is assured by 3 recessed LED lights embedded in an iron structure with external elements that ironically resemble bull horns. Directly in front of the counter, there is a small dining area. The red chairs here – all identical – create a sharp contrast to the asymmetrical bar stools: the geometric pattern on the floor is repeated in a large mural decoration, created using 1,400 bottles of coloured glass.
Barsa Taberna, located next to the St. Lawrence Market at 26 Market Street, takes pride in their interior design, resembling that of Barcelona by John Tong‘s collaboration with the restaurant owner, Aras Azadian. The 19th-century-built restaurant is revamped with works inspired by Gaudi, Picasso, and Dali which incorporate the city’s contemporary culture with bar stools, colourful bottles, abstract bulls, and flamboyant mosaics creating a dynamic atmosphere.
Every year, Canada’s National Trust publishes a “Worst Losses” list – a heartbreaking enumeration of historic buildings wiped from our landscape. From lighthouses to churches to architecturally and culturally significant houses, most are neglected beyond repair, then demolished – often for condo development. And as the only G7 country without laws in place to protect federal-government-owned historic properties, Canada continues to accumulate new losses every year.
But many independent restaurateurs are willing to give old structures a new lease on life. And their restaurants, many of which are in buildings that sat empty for decades or were slated for demolition, have become some of the most alluring places to eat. When a restaurant owner takes on a building of historical interest, members of the public can enjoy that unique space for the price of dinner or drinks.
The Market District’s Spanish tapas restaurant, Barsa Taberna, is undergoing a big switch as chef Chris McDonald has recently joined the team as consulting chef.
The 13 months-old restaurant opened in a heritage building across the street to the St. Lawrence Market with Chef Michael G. Smith. Initially there was much buzz about the restaurant’s launch menu, a mix of hot and cold dishes that loosely played on the theme of Spanish tapas. Smith’s menu was heavily influenced by global cooking and ingredients: dishes like rack of lamb with pomegranate glaze, grilled octopus with chana masala. He also featured a rotating paella special with variations on the classic Valencian rice dish. Recently, Smith handed in his notice and is soon to depart Barsa, so owner Aras Azadian turned to ex-Cava chef Chris McDonald for assistance.
Don’t get us wrong: the food at Toronto’s brand-new Spanish-inspired tapas restaurant Barsa Taberna is to die for. But diners may find it challenging to focus on their taste buds while surrounded by the eatery’s mind-tickling décor. It’s said that a restaurant should introduce a multi-sensory experience to its guests — and +tongtong, the multidisciplinary studio commissioned to design Barsa Taberna, took that truth to heart by putting together the culturally injected space.
The +tongtong architecture studio recently completed Barsa Taberna, a Spanish-inspired tapas restaurant with an exquisitely Mediterranean feel in downtown Toronto.
Both the client and the designer John Tong have spent a considerable amount of time in Barcelona and shared the excitement of capturing that vibrancy and energy in the creation of Barsa.
Located in a historical building just around the corner from the world-famous St. Lawrence Market, the 3,000-square-foot site was dingy with low ceilings, and was so dark the only way to explore the space was by flashlight. In fact, part of the space is under the sidewalk.
The buzz about openings in 2014 never ceased, which made it hard to keep up with all the newcomers that dared to tempt the collective palates of us fickle foodies. But like every year, only a handful make it onto my annual Top 10 list (Toronto). And though securing a reservation at some of these restaurants might now be difficult, trust me when I say you won’t regret it. Bon appetit.
Get your tapas on in downtown Toronto at the Barsa Taberna, which has come snorting onto the scene from the creative minds at design studio +tongtong. Energy and authenticity were two key principles of the job here at the Market Street heritage regeneration zone, the former coming from the art direction of local graffiti artist Pascal Paquette and project leader John Tong. They wanted to harness the spirit of a bull run, creating the vibrant back-lit mural that also serves as an important light source in the partially subterranean premises. More bull motifs crop up in the form of three LED light fittings running through the main dining area, with armatures resembling horns along their length, and the shape recurs in the installation made from 1,500 bottle ends above the banquette seating.
2014 was a good year for restaurants. Openings in Toronto seemed like a daily, maybe even hourly occurrence — but not every new spot is equally deserving of your hard-earned dollars — so please allow us to direct you to the 11 most commendable eateries to cut the ribbon this year…
St. Lawrence Market
The area around St. Lawrence Market is becoming more and more diverse where eating options are concerned. Barsa Taberna is one of the standouts in the neighbourhood and it’s smartly taken the concept of Spanish tapas to a fresh new level by incorporating flavours from around the world. So while the underlying idea might be Spanish in nature, you’re likely to find it tweaked with unexpected ingredients (dashi, or tamarind for instance) that elevate every bite.
With Picasso providing inspiration, the design team of Tongtong made the Spanish tapas restaurant Barsa Taberna into a living art space. The eatery, which opened in May, restored the original stone brickwork and heavy wooden beams in the grotto-style dining room, located in a 170-year-old heritage building in the St. Lawrence Market. But the standout is the mosaic wall, which contains 1,400 variously tinted wine bottles. The restaurant seats 84 indoors and 64 outdoors on a patio.