Get your tapas on in downtown Toronto at the Barsa Taberna, which has come snorting onto the scene from the creative minds at design studio +tongtong. Energy and authenticity were two key principles of the job here at the Market Street heritage regeneration zone, the former coming from the art direction of local graffiti artist Pascal Paquette and project leader John Tong. They wanted to harness the spirit of a bull run, creating the vibrant back-lit mural that also serves as an important light source in the partially subterranean premises. More bull motifs crop up in the form of three LED light fittings running through the main dining area, with armatures resembling horns along their length, and the shape recurs in the installation made from 1,500 bottle ends above the banquette seating.
On his previous visits to Barcelona, Tong had enjoyed the somewhat higgledy-piggledy layouts of the traditional Spanish tapas bars, born out of a need to adapt the historical architecture. The protected status of this venue adjacent to St Lawrence Market meant he had similar challenges to meet here – the windows, stone walls and main door had to remain unchanged but their presence only serves to add to the atmosphere. One of the most notable features is a new addition however; the custom-designed “little pest” stools are made from salvaged pine and a steel frame, with a chunky top resembling a butcher’s block.