Restaurant: Bar Raval
Location: 505 College Street, Toronto, ON M6G 1A4
Price Range: $$$
Recently I was invited to the launch of Whitley Neill Handcrafted Gin and meet the founder – Johnny Neill to learn more about the gin and how it was created. The cocktails and tapas were curated by Bar Raval – which is known as one of the most ridiculously beautiful bar in town! Owned by the same chef from Bar Isabel, Chef Grant van Gemeren opened Bar Raval and draw its inspiration from Barcelona.
Walking into the restaurant, the first thing I noticed was the stunning mahogany bar that winds around the restaurant, turning the space into a cozy wooden grotto. Bar stools were first come first serve and there were various barrels around the restaurant that served as cocktail tables.
I arrived late so I didn’t get a chance to meet the founder of Whitley Neill Gin, thus I proceed to ordering a cocktail that featured the alcohol. Just as a background, Whitley Neill Gin was crafted in England and it is finally available in Canada at LCBO. It contains 2 African botanicals, Baobab fruit and Cape Gooseberries, that give the gin an exotic touch to the palate.
For this event, the bartenders at Bar Raval personally hand-crafted special cocktails featuring the amazing flavor of the Whitley Neill Gin. I ordered most of the featured drinks but the Spruce Banner was my favorite of the night – as it tasted similarly to a Whisky Sour which is my go to drink. There was a light sweetness to the drink with a subtle citrus that did not overpower the delicate flavor of the gin. If you never had gin or looking for a lighter style of gin, I strongly recommend trying the Whitley Neill.
For the event, the raw bar features a variety of oysters and I really appreciated how the oyster shucker only shucked a few oysters at times to maintain the freshness of it.
P/S: Other than oyster, I believe the raw bar at Bar Raval’s patio also feature a variety of items such as snow crab to yellow fin tuna freshly caught from Nova Scotia.
I didn’t try the cured meats and cheese platter as I wanted to try their Spanish pintxos (also known as pinchos, differentiated from tapas based on their origin in the Basque Country part of Spain).
I’m not sure what was the stuffing of the botifarra as there are different variations out there, but the ones I had were delightful. Slightly charred followed by a natural sweetness from the red bell peppers.
There were jamon (ham) croquette and they had a crispy exterior, while the filling is smooth, creamy and super tasty. Since these were light and perfect on its own, I had to resist myself with just two croquettes…
The cheese was fluffy with just the right amount of saltiness from the anchovies, paired with a light zesty sauce on top of a perfectly crispy crostini – the dish sounded simple but was incredibly delicious!
This was my first time trying shishito peppers and it wasn’t really spicy as I expected it to be! The heat is still manageable and the pepper had a grassy and slightly sweet flavor to it.
The shrimp was cooked nicely and lightly seasoned with herbs, so simple yet the flavors were bright and bold.
Served room temperature, the octopus was tender yet still retain a bite to it. It was flavorful with vinegar, paprika (?) and an oil mixture with finely chopped herbs – a truly refreshing summer dish.
The donut was absolutely fluffy, light and delicious! Not too sweet with a nice savory touch from the candied jamon.
Though I never been to Spain nor have I ever had authentic Spanish food before, I will say, the quality of food and ingredients at Bar Raval were outstanding. All of the dishes at Bar Raval were great accompaniments to Whitley Neill Gin, or just any cocktails crafted by the talented bartenders at Bar Raval.
Disclaimer: While the food was provided by Bar Raval & Whitley Neill Gin, I am not obliged to publish a review on the business. All opinions/thoughts are my own. For more information about my review policy, please click here.