Raising the bar

By Paula Roy – 

Don’t let the unusual name of Bar Lupulus dissuade you from checking it out. Opening day was October 24 in the space formerly occupied by The Flying Banzini and it’s going to be a spot dedicated to delightfully innovative food and drink. The word Lupulus is Latin for ‘common hop’ and speaks to the beer-forward philosophy that has governed the creation of Bar Lupulus. Co-owners Anthony Spagnolo and Jeff Bradfield, who is also the executive chef, are confident their contribution to Kitchissippi’s vibrant culinary and beverage scene will resonate equally well with local diners and those from across the city.

Ottawa born and raised, Jeff, cooked most recently at Erling’s Variety and Social. Brought on board to create an Italian-Spanish style menu, he has taken things further with a pan-Mediterranean list that will pull from many different cuisines.

Co-owner of Bar Lupulus, Jeff Bradfield. Photo by Ellen Bond
Co-owner of Bar Lupulus, Jeff Bradfield. Photo by Ellen Bond

“We’ll have a lot of Italian-inspired dishes but I also love North African flavours and I’m eager to learn more about the foods of other countries like Greece, Turkey and Israel, so I can incorporate those elements as well,” says Jeff. “I enjoy working with local and seasonal ingredients, and we’ll be doing all our charcuterie, breads and desserts in house. I’m also looking forward to including hops into my dishes in a variety of ways including in sauces and garnishes or seasoning with salted hops to finish plates.”

Like Jeff, Anthony has long dreamed of opening his own place. An industry veteran, his training as a Cicerone and sommelier will serve him well as he curates Bar Lupulus’ unique collection of beer and wine offerings. The Almonte native, who is currently having a home built in the neighbourhood, is excited at the prospect of satisfying the tastebuds of what he describes as a hip and trendy area. “We plan to offer something for everyone, including the very adventuresome,” notes Anthony.

With the help of Shannon Smithers-Gay of One80 Design, the Bar Lupulus team has reimagined the small space as a funky place with a dark and moody vibe. The charcoal-tiled bar includes seats from which to peruse the constantly rotating twenty beers on tap or learn about the bottled beer selection, both of which will be chosen with an emphasis on high quality, unique Ontario craft beers. The rest of Bar Lupulus is awash in dark wood, banquettes and high tops with stools. Funky lighting adds pops of interest along with eye-catching artwork. Seats at the raw bar offer a full view of all the action in the compact, open kitchen. “I’m okay with working in a small space,” says Jeff. “I love being close to the floor and all the action. It’s fun to watch people enjoy the food you’ve prepared.”

As if opening a new restaurant wasn’t ambitious enough, Jeff will be one of the competitors in the prestigious Gold Medal Plates competition in November. “It’s a little overwhelming to be planning for both the opening and the competition, but this is a high-intensity industry and I tend to perform well under pressure,” he says. “The dish I’ve created for Gold Medal Plates is very reflective of my personal tastes and I am excited to see what the judges think.”

As part of their planned series of events, Bar Lupulus will have a unique tap takeover by Nickel Brook Brewing at the end of November, with a special menu to suit the lineup of sour and bourbon-barrel-aged beers that their guests will be pouring. The restaurant will initially be open for dinner only, with plans to add lunch service in the months ahead.

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