Teetering down the steep Market Street hill on my way down from Front, I am warmly greeted by the pelt-clad Cheryl Willberg, one of the publicists from the newly created Publicist Group who are hosting the tapas tasting event at Barsa Taberna. I am ushered down the stone steps to what feels very much like a castle wine cellar. My first impression: this is a happening place. The feel is warm yet electric with the Flamenco guitarist strumming away; guests laugh and talk while the bartenders make bottomless pitchers of three kinds of sangria: my favourite!
It would have been nice if the evening was hot enough that it required much Sangria-ment, but all seemed to be enjoying the imbibables and beer despite the crisp fall air.
Upon entering, the first thing one notices is the intricate stonework that was meticulously maintained during the month long renovation. The space has had numerous uses including a horse stable for the RCMP, and a wine storage cellar for the LCBO located directly above. It was also mentioned that some homeless people swear the space is haunted!
The rooms are full of character: original stone mason walls set in a Toronto historical building; glass bottles to reference the sharp bottles home owners used on the tops of their fences to keep intruders away. The lighting over the bar consists of little Toro horns with bulbs. There is also outside patio seating on Market Street, which would provide a nice people-watching vista.
Sangria Cava – was a light sparkling wine concoction mixed with raspberries and mango. While refreshing, the taste was eclipsed by the effervescence.
Sangria Rojo – This was my favourite! A mix of deep Rioja red wine, strawberries and peach schnapps, this was at once sweet, yet full bodied which hits all the right notes with me.
Grilled Octopus – Beautifully presented, but tasted a bit salty.
Cheese Boccadillo – Idiazabal and Mahon cheese, green olive hazelnut tapenade grilled on a buttered bread = delicious adult grilled cheese. Tasty!
Chorizo Croquettas – This was one of my favourites. The milky cheese inside the toasted croquettas was perfectly melted then dunked into a white dipping sauce.
Manchego Churros – These cheesy, salty little cheese sticks were a party favourite. Comprised of a medium tang cheese, one dips into a tomato paste and enjoys.
Dungeoness Crab Lettuce Wrap – These were by far my favourites, they absolutely melted in my mouth! Delicious coral mayo, crab with tempura bits, tarragon, topped with lobster.
The co-owner, Aras Azadian, stood up halfway through the party to explain his long desire to bring Barcelona to Toronto then wrapped up inviting all the guests to get drunk! The head chef, Michael Smith, also said a few words then got back to the kitchen to put the finishing touches on some tiny little sangria cakes topped with grapes and berries for dessert.
With Barsa Taberna’s enviable location in the heart of the St. Lawrence Market, the fantastic patio and character-laden interior mixed with the delicious tapas and sangria, this restaurant promises to be the next Toronto hot spot.