Address: 93 Albert Street
Entrees: $11 – $28
The romantic streets of Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District are where the cool kids go–it has been that way for decades. As a result, restaurant upstarts in this ‘hood have somewhat of a leg up out of the starting gate, anticipated as the next hot spot everyone will be talking about.
Cordova Tapas and Wine Bar is packing in the city’s beautiful people, who arrive seeking a whiff of culture and a sip of European flavour; the location is prime, but the two handsome young fellows from France and Belgium, with endearing personalities and a knack for working the room, may be just as much of a draw.
Tucked into a long, narrow space in heritage digs, the newest spot to bring Spanish-style tapas to the ‘Peg revels in old world hospitality. Happy smiles, the kind given to friends, and engaging tableside banter invite conversation from the outset. Warm colours and greenery, soft lighting, easy listening Spanish music, and stylish Mediterranean tilework set a moody backdrop for companions to catch up. Space fills up quickly each night at high top tables, followed by diners sitting intimately shoulder to shoulder along the bar. The room is abuzz.
While a few short years ago, tapas style eating was a hard sell in this city–prairie folks like big plates of food–the small plates trend has snowballed. Many restaurants have added more appetizers to their menus, rebranded “tapas” to score cache off of Spain’s pub scene. Shareable eats have won the hearts of diners eager to try something new while keeping options open for another plate.
Gaël Winandy and Gregoire Stevenard, the aforementioned men from Europe, may simply have spotted a business opportunity in a new land and capitalized on it. Indeed, Spain is a mere skip from France and Belgium and pubs are a pretty inviting research project.
Here, signature dishes from Spain and France are sautéed swiftly over a couple burners behind the bar, filling the room with heady aromas. Garlic, sweet paprika and frying mushrooms entice. Many little plates stage a seduction and delight the senses. French baguette accompanies salmon mousse. Sourdough bread is slathered in goat cheese, mushrooms and fresh herbs. Chicken liver pate is luscious and smooth – accompanied with picante medley of pickles, and more bread. A Chorizo and potato pan fry mix is spiced with smoky, sweet chili; piment d’espelettes from French Basque countryside.
Desserts come little too. A trio of sweets on a stone platter take a turn at making a big impression. Being cool doesn’t happen simply by following suit. Timing plays into this story, yes; as does a hip address. The essential ingredients in this formula, though, are a warm, inviting atmosphere and impeccable cooking. With all of the above, Cordova feels like the place to be.
Cordova is open Tue-Wed 5 pm-12 am, Thu-Sat 5 pm-2 am, Mon-Sun closed.