What’s the vibe
While we may love the youthful, trendy spots that are popping up all over downtown, there’s more to the Toronto dining scene than dimly lit snack bars. Offering up unpretentious fine dining, everything about Bar Altura is cheerful and flowery. The space is refreshingly bright – decorated with an ample amount of brass fixture lights and glass doors that open up onto Queen St in warm weather. Flowers can be found in a little vase on every table and garnishing each cocktail, pinned to the rim by an itsy-bitsy clothespin.
You won’t find the King St. crowd here. Cooing couples are seated at every other table and the swank atmosphere attracts a more mature crowd. Hip-hop beats and friendly staff keep this upscale spot from feeling stuffy.
What to drink
Will Publow heads up a drink programme of unique cocktails with fresh and delicious flavours. Still a work in progress at the time of Bar Altura’s opening, many of the drinks had yet to be named. Among our favourites was a vodka-based tipple made with a concoction of vegetables. Because who doesn’t want to feel like they’re making a healthy choice while they imbibe?
You might have to be a tad adventurous to try some of the drinks, but it’s well worth it – a cocktail sprinkled with dill was unexpectedly delicious. Bar Altura also offers a selection of wines.
What to eat
We’ve all had the experience of going to an Italian restaurant, gorging ourselves on pasta with heavy sauces and leaving with a more-than-uncomfortable feeling, swearing we will never be hungry again. But, much to the relief of our stomachs, the food at Bar Altura perfectly coincides with the aesthetic – everything is fresh and light. The gnocchi is bathed in a red sauce that has the flavour of eating a ripe tomato and the lamb carpaccio is so tender it almost melts on your tongue.
Head chef Marco Zandona’s menu changes weekly, depending on the seasonal ingredients available. A delicate Portuguese sardine served with salsa verde and wrapped in a crispy potato string resembling a curly fry is often among the four or five daily specials. But as delicious as this dish is, it might never be added to the printed menu. The kitchen at Bar Altura never uses frozen sardines so quantities of the fish are limited.
For chef Marco, cooking is an emotional endeavour. When asked if the menu will always be changing or eventually settle, he replied that life is always changing and never really settles.
Dinner and drinks for two: about $125
571 Queen St West, baraltura.com