Open at 8 a.m., Bar Raval Brings a Taste of Spain to Toronto

Bar Raval, a staple in Toronto’s culinary & beverage scene and helmed by acclaimed chef Grant van Gameren with partners Robin Goodfellow and Michael Webster, is heavily influenced by the Spanish resort town San Sebastian.

“To make the best use out of the space, we wanted to pack people in, so it’s standing, which exists in Spain,” said Goodfellow, who is not only a partner but also a bartender at Bar Raval. “We do pinchos all day. It’s a cafe; it’s kind of more of a community center. People come in all the time and the sort of vibe that you get in San Sebastian is exactly what we thought would be good here.”

Bar Raval offers both pinchos, which are Spanish snacks, and tapas, shareable plates.

From Health to Happiness

Goodfellow got his undergraduate degree in Social Theory of Health. Like many students, he was bartending while in school. “And when it came time to do more school, I was not really into it. The field of academia lost me, and I really wanted to focus on what was making me happy,” he said. Goodfellow was not only making good money and drinks, but his employers kept giving him more responsibilities, allowing him to grow. 

The Design

Customized by the Toronto-based architecture and design studio Partisans Projects, Bar Raval’s design includes intricate woodwork. “We wanted the space to be just like the experience — very organic,” said Goodfellow. “You come in, it’s like a warm hug from a tree. We’ve heard people say it looks like the inside of a tree’s heart.”

Most of the woodwork is curved, and the only right angles in the venue is the doorway. “The architects really enjoyed the fact that the three of us [Goodfellow, Webster, and van Gameren] had a lot of tattoos and are pretty fit guys, so the story is that some of the design is based on our tattoos and our bodies.”

In this episode of “Across the Bar,” host Paul Barron is served three of Bar Raval’s cocktails, all of which are broken down by ingredients and the inspiration behind their creation.

Robin Goodfellow

Robin Goodfellow

Pinchos & tapas

Pinchos & tapas

Almost Famous cocktail

Almost Famous cocktail

Bar Raval interior

Bar Raval interior

Cocktail No. 1: Mal Gusto

A popular drink for guests to order in the morning hours, the Mal Gusto is described by Goodfellow as a “low-octane, sherry-based, shaken, refreshing, tart, dry cocktail.” It’s comprised of Maestro Fino, Cocchi Americano, lime juice, rich syrup, and Pernod Absinthe. “My partners and I were really hell-bent on selling cocktails as soon as we legally can, which is 11 a.m. And it’s hard to push Bourbon, big brown and stirred, in the morning,” he said. “Also, being a Spanish tapas bar/cocktail bar, gotta have a lot of sherry.”

Recipe:

  • 45 ml. Maestro Fino
  • 15 ml. Cocchi Americano
  • 22 ml. lime juice
  • 12 ml. rich syrup
  • 5 ml. Pernod Absinthe

Cocktail No. 2: Almost Famous

A slight variation on a drink from famed Seattle bartender Murray Stenson, the Almost Famous includes mezcal, yellow chartreuse, lemon juice, absinthe, and a touch of Aperol. “It’s a really easy drink; people understand it,” said Goodfellow. “To be honest, in Toronto, it seems to be a big thing where mezcal is just on the cusp of blowing up. We’re getting a lot of reorders for mezcal cocktails.”

Recipe:

  • 30 ml. Del Maguey San Luis Del Rio Espadin
  • 22 ml. yellow chartreuse
  • 22 ml. Aperol
  • 30 ml. lemon juice
  • 5 ml. Pernod Absinthe

Cocktail No. 3: One-Hour Photo

The One-Hour Photo is made up of stirred mezcal, Averna, and pinot sherry, complete with cucumber and a hit of grapefruit zest. “The earthy, oiliness of the mezcal with the freshness, lightness of the pinot and the cucumber really take you for a weird ride,” he said. “I made this drink on the day that Robin Williams died, and so I thought I’d name it after his weirdest movie.”

Recipe:

  • 30 ml. Del Maguey 100% Tobala
  • 30 ml. Tio Pepe Fino
  • 22 ml. Averna
  • 2 cucumber slices
  • Grapefruit zest