When Jon Svazas and his wife Kate, owners of Fauna in Centretown, began to contemplate opening another restaurant, the decision to build a space inspired by one of their favourite vacation spots was an easy one. “We kept coming back to our trips to Spain” Jon remarked, “and how much we enjoyed the food and culture.” Having settled on creating a Spanish inspired kitchen, Jon and Kate returned to Spain celebrate their ten year wedding anniversary – and to do a little restaurant research.
Bar Laurel, named after Calle del Laurel in Logrono, Rioja, has a menu centered around traditional Spanish dishes. The menu features several smaller dishes, called pintxos, as well as a selection of larger sharing plates.
While the dishes feature local ingredients when they can, the highlights of Bar Laurel’s menu lie in the imported Spanish products. There is the secreto de iberico – the “kobe beef” of pork. You can also enjoy a trio of tasty conservas, which are gourmet canned seafood from Galicia. Served with crostini, you can try baby squid in ink, sardines, or the razor clams. A large ribeye, one of Bar Laurel’s tasty sharing options, is cooked in a wood fire oven – a style traditional of the basque region. Cheese hounds may also rejoice, as you can find Quezo azul, Idiazabal, and 12 month Manchego here.
If you are veggie or vegan, there are plenty of delicious options for you as well, among them a delicious zucchini dish cooked over a wood fire and a tempting roasted carrot salad.
In addition to a really tasty food menu, Bar Laurel also boasts a rich drink menu, with 25 different wines available by the glass. They also have an excellent selection of cocktails, sherries, and vermouths.
When you step into Bar Laurel, it is evident that much thought went into the aesthetic and design. Jon, who is also a chef, took a few months away from cooking at Fauna to design the space himself. One of the space’s greatest features is the burnt cedar wall – done using a Japanese tradition of preserving wood through charring, called Shou Sugi Ban. Jon knew almost immediately that he wanted to use burnt wood in the space, given that they would be cooking using wood fire ovens. He brought his idea to Bill Riseborough, and Bill made it happen.
Bill is also the man behind the stunning concrete bar and illuminated walnut back bar, which he worked on with Jon. Once the room was set up, the Svazas filled it with great lighting and furniture, supplied by friend and owner of the Modern Shop, Mike Shaikin. All the little details, when pulled together, create an intimate and relaxing space to enjoy a drink with friends, or a meal with someone you love.
In a lot of ways, Bar Laurel truly is like Fauna’s little sibling. While they are different in many regards, there are also some welcome similarities. The food is delicious, the atmosphere is inviting, and the service is impeccable. When comparing the two, “Fauna has a bigger downtown restaurant vibe while Bar Laurel is a smaller cozy neighbourhood spot,” says Jon about his restaurants. We would tend to agree. If you are looking for a new spot to try in the city, Bar Laurel is high on our list!
Bar Laurel is open for dinner from 5:30pm until late Monday through Saturday, but you can look forward to Sunday brunch real soon.