Rancho Relaxo to become a two-floor British pub

The Bristol's Davy Love set to launch The Old Laurel

After 18 years, Rancho Relaxo is finally retiring from the burrito business – but the rock ‘n’ roll soul of 300 College will soldier on within its next tenant, a British pub and soccer bar that will double as a live music venue.

Davy Love, chef and co-owner at The Bristol (and longtime Britpop promoter and DJ about town) is poised to leave his Queen West digs to take over Rancho from owner Donnie Blais.

Blais announced last week that he was shutting down the Mexican restaurant/live music venue, which underwent a major renovation and a menu makeover over the past year. “Essentially, it’s one of those stories where if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it,” he says. “The old clientele didn’t like the new menu, and they missed the Mexican blankets on the tables. It didn’t appeal to any of the new crowd.”

The upstairs room at Rancho, meanwhile, spent many years at the heart of a tiny but vibrant rock-and-roll scene with booker Dan Wolovick at its centre. The bar was a popular spot for up-and-coming acts cutting their teeth, particularly during festival season.

In its new form, Love hopes to maintain the bar as a destination for hearty eats, good tunes, and a solid party. The new bar, called the Old Laurel (a nod to the Fred Perry shirts long favoured by rudeboys and mods), will be a pretty classic British pub, amped up with what Love calls “an added element of rock & roll, 1977 punk rock, ska, Trojan reggae and northern soul and elements of Britpop culture too – basically everything my friends and I like and grew up liking.”

True to the Bristol’s rep as a destination for British-style breakfasts, the new spot will feature English and Scottish favourites, as well as comfort foods from all over the Commonwealth: Jamaica, India, New Zealand and Australia. Look for a brunch menu featuring dishes like the “eggs Brixton”: a jerk chicken Benedict on coco bread with Scotch bonnet marmalade.

The upstairs, too, will be made over, adding a new sound system in addition to some TVs for the footie fans to watch English and Scottish premiership games. (Fittingly, they’re going to call it the Red Card Room.) Live music and DJ nights will continue on in the upstairs space, too, with the Silver Dollar’s Dan Burke coming from around the corner to do some of the booking. The downstairs and upstairs spaces are both set to open September 12. 

In the meantime, the Rancho brand will live on as a food truck, as well as a catering company frequently hired on by film and TV crews. The restaurant will shut down for good on August 15, in case you want to have one last margarita, and shows will continue upstairs through the month, in case you want to have one last shot of Jameson.

nataliam@nowtoronto.com | @nataliamanzocco

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