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Bar Chef

We've been using World's Best Bars to find bars when we've been travelling. It's a little hit-and-miss, and you need to do some extra research before you randomly pick one. But it's great if you're in a place that doesn't really use Yelp or FourSquare. We showed it to Mike and Melissa, and they laughed at a lot of the choices for Toronto. One, however, they recommended: Bar Chef.

It's in the second-coolest neighbourhood in the world (according to Vogue) – Queen Street West. They serve fancy cocktails and want to "challenge the [...] cocktail experience." SOUNDS FUN!

Oh, it was dark inside, so most of my photos are a little grainy. Sorry.

Bar Chef placemat

We started out with two normal-ish cocktails. The Symphony No 5 was a gin/vanilla thing that was OK. The Basil Daiquiri was tasty – super-drinkable.

Symphony No. 5 and the Basil Daiquiri

These two cocktails were pretty good. However, we noticed there was a "modernist" section that had more expensive ones – some with some weird ingredients ("spring fog"? "beach essence"?).

Hampton got a $45 (!) Manhattan. It came under a giant cloche filled with smoke.

Cloche full of smoke

It rested on the table for a minute or two before the bartender came over and slowly swirled the cloche off the top of the pedestal. Underneath was the smokey Manhattan!


It was seriously smokey. Even though I was only sat next to Hampton, my clothes smelt like a wood fire for the next day.

The next modernist cocktail we got was the Black Truffle. It came with six tiny spoons. The spoons had a coconut foam/lime dust mixture on them. You were supposed to eat one of those, then drink the gin-based concoction. Those spoons were amazing, and they went well with the drink. The drink had elderflower in it, too, so I loved it.

Black Truffle

Next up, there was a Cedar. It came on a wood platter set up like a zen garden. There was a sprig of cedar in one corner, some cacao "soil" and chunks of pear. You dip the pear in the "soil," and eat that before you drink. I didn't get much from the food bit, but the drink (a gin-chamomile-pear thing) was clean and fresh.


I think the weirdest drink of the night was the Spring Thaw. It came in a tiny glass surrounded by moss. The bartender came over and poured water (?) over the moss, and it started misting. I'm guessing there was perfumed dry ice in there somewhere – it smelled just like a spring forest.

Spring thawing all over the table

The cocktail itself was a gin-campari thing. It had a campari sorbet of some kind, and as you were drinking the sorbet melted into the rest. It's a neat concept, but it was strange that the drink got more and more bitter as you went on.

The Spring Thaw cocktail itself

We also got a punch bowl, which I'd recommend if you're tired of the pomp around the other cocktails.

I love any kind of ceremony or ostentation around food and drink. There's something fun about the process – in these cases, eating something special before you drink, or smelling a fog that surrounds your glass. So I'm already inclined to like a place like this – and I did. A lot. It's definitely not cheap, though, and certainly not a casual after-work-drinks kinda place.

9.0 / 10