Just Opened: Spice Safar

Just Opened: Spice Safar

The bar at Spice Safar (Photo by Renée Suen)

The recession may just be ending, but around King West, there are few signs it ever happened. Buca has just opened, The Roosevelt Room starts up in two weeks, and the Bell Lightbox is rapidly climbing into the sky. And now there are two new locations of Montreal’s Spice Safar to add a dose of the unexpected to the district.

One Spice Safar is located right at King and Brant Streets, but it’s much harder to categorize than neighbouring bars and restaurants. The concept is “boutique-bakery-café-lounge,” although the latter three take up most of the room. House-made viennoiseries ($2–$3), organic Mexican arabica espressos (served with sparkling water and a tiny brownie, $3.50–$4.25) and rooibos red lattes ($3.95) are popular with clients, and plans are already underway to expand the menu to include brunch and high tea.

The bright, spacious interior is done up with wood and velvet, lending the room a luxurious feel far from that of the rustic neighbourhood coffee shop. Of course, that vibe is helped along by the small boutique section that showcases eclectic products that project a youthful and professional sensibility: iPhone ball speakers from Japan ($29), handmade porcelain-and-wood amps from Iowa ($500), Green Technology shoes ($1,500). At dusk, the space becomes a lounge, where DJs blend music ranging from Brazilian to Middle Eastern to Indian and pump it at volumes that are conducive to conversation.

Wilhelm Liebenberg (Photo by Renée Suen)

Founder and CEO Wilhelm Liebenberg tells us Spice Safar’s lifestyle-based business is unique in the city, catering to everyone from the budding socialite to the savviest of shoppers. “It is both affordable and luxurious,” he says, noting that he serves up “guilty pleasures for only 50 cents more than Starbucks.”

His other Safar Lounge location, just a few blocks away on Adelaide Street, strives to be a modern take on the 1920s absinthe bars of Paris and Cairo. The cocktail menu lists several beverage creations (such as the molecular bellini, $12) by mixologist Miguel Aranda (from Manhattan’s Apothéke), as well as an international gamut of small plates from executive chef Matthew Sullivan (previously of The Fat Duck) and decadent desserts prepared by chef Carlo Lazzarino (formerly of Four Seasons Toronto and Colborne Lane). The Adelaide lounge is also home to the iconic Adonis espresso machine by Victoria Arduino, one of the few in commercial use in North America.

Liebenberg admits that the jack-of-all-trades concept can seem confusing to the uninitiated but says, “Everyone who comes in gets it. It’s the emotional journey that everybody’s always wanted but didn’t know existed. We are a lounge, but it’s the all-around visual and emotional experience we try to create.”

Spice Safar, 270 Adelaide St. W. (at John St.) and 510 King St. W. (at Brant St.), 416-340-0444, spicesafar.com.