At the Black Hoof and Bar Isabel, the neurotic, self-taught Grant van Gameren made offal sexy and became an unlikely celebrity chef. Bar Raval, his new restaurant on a prime Little Italy corner, is the most hyped opening of the year. Too bad he loathes the spotlight
Bar Raval, Grant van Gameren’s latest project, is named after a seedy neighbourhood in Barcelona. You wouldn’t know it from his elaborate plans for the place. He and his two partners, Robin Goodfellow and Mike Webster, are investing somewhere around half a million dollars to renovate the building at the corner of College and Palmerston, where Teatro used to be—a preposterous sum for a 40-seat restaurant that will serve finger food and cocktails. Everything, absolutely everything at Bar Raval, will be custom made: the tamper for the espresso bar, the foot rests, the drip tray with the Wu-Tang logo. The South American mahogany for the walls is being machine-carved and hand-oiled at a millworks in North York. The panels, designed by the boutique architecture firm Partisans, will have swooping rounded contours that replicate the three partners’ bodies. The design was so novel, so complex, that the manufacturers had to develop new algorithms for the software that guides the drill bits over the wood.
The project would seem hubristic if van Gameren had ever failed at a restaurant. But he hasn’t. The man’s sense of what Toronto craves has been impeccable. His food manages to fit the moment and the city with perfect accord.