Address: 93 Albert Street
Entrees: $11 – $28
The romantic streets of Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District has been where the creatives hang for decades. As a result, restaurants in this ‘hood have somewhat of a leg up when it comes to alluring the cool.
Cordova Tapas and Wine Bar is a beacon for the city’s beautiful people, who arrive seeking a whiff of culture and a sip of European flavour. The location is prime; tucked into a long, narrow space in heritage digs, this spot serves Spanish-style tapas with old world hospitality. The resto-bar changed hands amid covid closures, and the new chef owner is deftly handling the new dining landscape.
Happy smiles, the kind given to friends, and engaging tableside banter invite conversation from the outset. Soft lights casting a pink glow, easy listening music and stylish Mediterranean tilework set a moody backdrop for companions to catch up. Space fills up quickly at the hand-honed high-top tables, but sitting intimately shoulder to shoulder along the bar offers a prime view of the cooking action.
It’s difficult to remember a time when tapas style eating was a hard sell in this city, the trend has snowballed way beyond the Spanish-inspired pub scene. Shareable plates have won the hearts of diners eager to try something new while keeping options open for another taste.
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 onions entice. Many little plates stage a seduction and delight the senses.
A skillet of gambas al ajillo reveals a heady garlic mix of crimson prawns swimming in a smoky paprika chili oil. Lemon adds a hint of tartness to the unctuous bites. Sharp hits of red onion and jalapeno are mellowed by avocado and salty feta in a bowl of corn salad. Nachos on the side for dipping ups the fun quotient.
On one night, mussels sit in a subtly sweet white wine infused coconut cream laced with garlic and green curry, adding an Asian twist to the pot. Baked camembert comes highly recommended and is indeed exceptional. Piping hot, the melted cheese permeates aromas of herbs before it kisses the lips with its honeyed sweetness.
Desserts come little too while making a big impression. Perhaps the winning formula is not so secret at Cordova. After all, it’s the little things that always make the difference.
Cordova is open Wed-Thu 5 pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 5 pm-1 am