Bar Isabel & Bar Raval - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Bar Isabel & Bar Raval

photo by John Cullen (Bar Isabel); Bar Raval by Dekkerd Miyahara

Reservations have been hard to come by since Grant van Gameren’s Barcelona taberna–inspired Bar Isabel opened in March 2013. It has managed to sustain excitement and loyalty among Toronto’s foodies with an elemental recipe of outstanding food (including classic platos like whole roasted octopus and Basque seafood hotpot, plus various embutidos—cured meats, a specialty of van Gameren’s), top-level service (with several highly trained sommeliers on staff), one of the city’s best bar programs, and a wine list curated by GM Alessandro Pietropaolo. Spain features heavily, with selections ranging from the little-known Dominio do Bibei’s Lapola from Ribeira Sacra to celebrated bottles like Finca Dofì from Alvaro Palacios in Priorat. Two dozen by-the glass offerings (half dedicated to Sherry) change weekly, while 70 beers and ciders featuring craft Canadian and top Belgian brews, particularly sours, keep the whole table slaked. Van Gameren recently added Bar Raval to his expanding empire, a more casual pintxo bar with a small but clever wine list.

797 College St., Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Basque, Cocktail Bar


505 College St., Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Basque, Cocktail Bar


John Szabo, MS, has been traveling to Hungary since the late 1970s—first to visit relatives, and later to start J & J Eger Wine Co., where he makes kékfrankos with partner János Stumpf. But his day job is writing about wine and researching the world’s best wine bars.

This story appears in the print issue of August 2016.
Like what you read? Subscribe today.