Spanish Tapas in Little Italy: Bar Raval

Grant van Gameren can seem to do no wrong. The chef behind Black Hoof and Bar Isabel finds a way to mix unique ingredients (pig head, sweetbreads, chicken gizzards) with that so hip it hurts vibe perfectly every time.  I have been anxiously anticipating the transformation of the space formerly occupied by Teatro every time I walked by here on College Street. As it turns out, the $200,000 Gaudi inspired transformation was well worth the wait, as the space at Bar Raval at 505 College Street evokes a genuine warmth reminiscent of a Barcelona tapas house. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (8am to 2am), there are plenty of opportunities to take in the charms of Bar Raval. Be warned, seating is very limited and the concept is meant to be primarily standing room only, something that’s not necessarily easy for our North American sensibilities to accept. The large patio will be open in time for summer.

Lattice covered windows facing College Street


Bustling interior on a Wednesday night


Bar area covered in citrus

On the food and drink front, almost everything is a winner. The croquetas were simultaneously creamy and crispy, the jamon & manchego a delightful combination of textures, and the Tuna Pickle Gilda…wow, so unexpected and so delicious!  Really an incomparable dish.  My least favourite dish was the BC Side Stripe Shrimp.  It was the most expensive thing we tried, but the least satisfying. The shrimp comes still in the shells with roe on top, but neither one of us could figure out how to get the skin off and keep the roe on, which led to a messy experience. The Salchichas Fritas are basically a few types of sausages which, while delicious, weren’t exactly what we expected and were a bit heavy. I would have preferred a mix of sausages and potatoes in the dish. For more details on menus, check out Bar Raval’s website


Jamon & Manchego ($8)

A bowl of sausage pieces with toothpick sticking out

Salchicas Fritas ($7)

several shrimp with skins on in a round dish with white sauce on the side

BC Side Stripe Shrimp ($11)

tuna steak sandwhiched between pickles  on a skewer

Tuna Pickle Gilda ($6.90)

The drinks here are plentiful and varied.  The red wines were delicious and I especially enjoyed the Mencia ($10), which our waitress described as tasting like balsamic and blueberries, a description I didn’t feel did the wine justice. A large cocktail and beer list round out the selection.  Although cocktails are described as low alcohol and appropriate for day drinking, there was no shortage of booziness on my tasting (no complaints!).

Next up for me will be a taste of Bar Raval’s breakfast!

A foamy white and pink drink

Rosé Fizz ($11) with Croft Pale PX, Lemon, Sugar, Egg White, Peychaud’s, and Rosé Cava


Menu of coffees written in cursive on a mirror

A selection of breakfast drinks




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