Offering everything from tapas to takeout, plus a juice bar, pantry items and gifts
By Natalia Manzocco
Dec 7, 2017
Campo Food Hall (433 King West, at Spadina, 416-260-9993) is a slice of Spain in downtown Toronto. Chef-owner Rob Bragagnolo (Carver, Marben) previously called Majorca home, and spent some time this winter brushing up on his modern Spanish technique with a stage at Albert Adrià’s famed Barca tapas bar Tickets.
Now, he’s poured that nostalgia and know-how into a modern space that, just like Spain’s buzzing markets, covers all the daily dining bases while doubling as a community epicentre.
Bragagnolo sought to capture “the feeling you get at these markets, like Boqueria in Barcelona, Olivar Market in Palma. It’s active all hours of the day, and the space is morphing and changing as the day goes on. You’d have a coffee in the morning, go back for lunch, and in the evening you’d have some gin and tonics and tapas, or a whole grilled fish, or some sliced ham.”
For that reason, the food hall space is dominated by a long bar that can serve both as a quick-service lunch counter by day and a tapas bar after dark. Daytime diners can fill lunch containers with salad bar fixings like roasted veggies and manzanilla olives, pick up prepared dishes like tuna conserva or Russian potato salad, or grab a serrano-ham-stuffed croissant to go. At night, the back bar becomes Labora, a full-service restaurant with more involved dishes and smaller plates.
Here’s a closer look at the space and menu.
Pan con tomate is a classic tapas dish available on the Labora evening menu. Bragagnolo’s version is built on what the Spanish call “crystal bread.” “They call it that because it shatters easily – it’s mostly crust, with not a lot of filling.” Bragagnolo worked with the Drake Commissary to concoct a recipe. It took some effort, since the watery, sticky dough is tough to work with.
Sea bream with fennel and grapefruit is part of the “almost raw” menu at Labora. The fish is cured lightly in salt, but also gets a last-minute bath in citrus right before serving. “It’s kind of an instant cure from the time we plate it to when it gets to the table, so it will start to change colour a little bit – almost like a ceviche,” Bragagnolo says. The finishing touch: a few drips of coffee-infused olive oil.
Labora’s rubia gallega is a dish Bragagnolo picked up at Tickets and Bodega 1900. The name actually refers to a breed of cow that hails from northwestern Spain, but Campo’s is actually an Ontario rib-eye. “We cure it with sugar, salt, spices and orange zest for about seven weeks, and then it air dries. It’s basically the beef version of Iberian ham,” Bragagnolo says.
Ensalada rusa (“Russian salad”) is a mainstay of the Campo menu and comes loaded with red peppers, olives and crackers.
“There’s this huge vermouth culture that’s been revitalized in Barcelona and through various parts of Spain. Typically you’d be pouring the vermouth into the glass and then adding soda – but we’ve eliminated that extra step,” Bragagnolo says. The result is a surprisingly fizzy golden vermouth with a lemon wedge, aka the “Labora cola.”
On top of all that Galician goodness, there’s a juice counter operated by ELXR Juice Lab, a slick juicery with locations in Yorkville and Bayview Village. It’s not as odd a pairing as you might think: “In every single market you go to in Spain, there’s always a juice place,” Bragagnolo says.
“I think that was borne out of necessity – all these people were like, ‘What am I gonna do with this extra ripe pineapple? Let’s make a smoothie!’”
On top of bottled juices, ELXR also does all-natural breakfast parfaits in deceptively desserty flavours like s’more or PB&J, and health-conscious hot drinks, like a delectable matcha latte laced with dates, spices and an undetectable hint of an immune-boosting fungus called cordyceps.
Linger long enough and you’ll stumble on a shelf packed with products by the Drake General Store: water bottles, whimsical drinking glasses and condiments. “I didn’t want this to feel like a food court,” Bragagnolo says by way of explanation.
There’s also a selection of Spanish cheeses brought in from Cheese Boutique and a smattering of imported goodies like tinned seafood, truffle-flavoured chips, olives and paella broth for you to stock your kitchen. Hey, this really is a market!
Natalia came to NOW as the food writer in 2015 before taking over the lifestyle desk in 2019. She has written about food, style, technology, life and travel for the National Post, Sun Media, blogTO and Metro. She enjoys thrift stores and bad puns.