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What’s on the menu at Compton Ave., the new British cocktail bar from the BarChef team

That’s Compton, London

By Kate Dingwall| Photography by Jelena Subotic
What's on the menu at Compton Ave., the new British cocktail bar from the BarChef team

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Name: Compton Ave. Contact: 1282 Dundas St. W., comptonave.com, @barcomptonave
Neighbourhood: Little Portugal
Previously: Founder Owner: Solarik Holdings (BarChef, Prequel & Co.) Chefs: Director of culinary Lionel Duke, chef de cuisine Joshua Algas Accessibility: Washrooms are not wheelchair accessible

It’s been 15 years since BarChef, one of the city’s best-known cocktail bars, opened on Queen West. It took owner and mixologist Frankie Solarik 13 years to open his next project, Prequel and Co. A comparatively short 12 months after that, he opened Compton Ave., his third and newest spot in the city’s west end.

Frankie Solarik and Kurt Tissera
Solarik (left) and Kurt Tissera, who joined the team in 2019 and is now the co-owner of Compton Ave.

“BarChef is an institution at this point, and it’s such an honour to continue to run it,” says Solarik. “Now, we’re going from individual modernist cocktails to spaces that can fully transport a guest.” The destination? Compton Avenue in Highgate, London, an old-moneyed neighbourhood chock full of 18th-century mega-mansions.

“We have two spots on Queen, so we wanted to move up to Dundas and be part of a neighbourhood that’s so vibrant with bars,” says Solarik. “Our neighbours—Bar Mordecai and Mahjong—are both fantastic.”

The owners, chefs and staff of Compton Ave, a cocktail bar in Toronto
And the rest of the Compton Ave. team

 

The exterior of Compton Ave. is modeled after the white-walled houses that line London’s well-heeled neighbourhoods
The drinks

BarChef’s over-the-top ethos (esoteric ingredients, fancy glassware, house-made bitters) transferred over to Compton Ave. But this is a British bar, so tea makes an appearance in more than one cocktail—lapsang souchong bitters here, an Earl Grey espresso martini there.

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And carbonation is a key part of the program. There are four draught taps behind the bar: one for carbonated drinks (a CO2 tap) and one with nitrous oxide for still-batched cocktails. BarChef is a destination, a place people stay for a whole evening; Compton Ave., on the other hand, is meant to be more of a way station—somewhere to pop in for a great drink before or after dinner. Draught cocktails allow drinks to come out at a steady clip, allowing staff to focus on service.

A bartender pours carbonated water from a draught tap
“True carbonation is just so much better when achieved through a draught tap,” says Solarik

 

The Pandan Americano, a classic Italian aperitivo of Campari and sweet vermouth, but kissed with spring rhubarb, pandan, and strawberry vinegar
Draught drinks will rotate. Right now, the selection includes this Pandan Americano, a classic Italian aperitivo of Campari and sweet vermouth with spring rhubarb, pandan and strawberry vinegar. $17

 

A bartender pours a cocktail from shaker to shaker at Compton Ave
Here’s head mixologist Volkov Kyrill, who is responsible for most of the menu in collaboration with beverage director Gianluca Passuello

 

A bartender pours a martini from a shaker into a coupe
And here he is again. That drink is almost ready

 

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The Smoked Olive Martini at Compton Ave in Toronto
No cocktail menu is complete with a martini, and Compton Ave.’s is vodka based with hickory-smoked vermouth, sherry and grapefruit bitters. (There’s also a full martini menu for anyone who doesn’t dig this recipe.) $20

 

The Umami Old Fashioned at Compton Ave. is made with bourbon, pandan syrup, maple syrup, a soy reduction and lapsang souchong bitters
The Umami Old Fashioned is made with bourbon, pandan syrup, maple syrup, a soy reduction and lapsang souchong bitters (there’s that tea). For garnish: a crunchy rice cracker. $23

 

The Lady of the House, a gin-based cocktail at Compton Ave, a bar in Toronto
The portrait behind the bar—an original oil painting from 1855 and housed behind protective glass—is known lovingly as the Lady of the House, and her watchful eyes keep service on track. “She makes sure we’re all on our best behaviour,” says Solarik. The drink named for her (and poured from the draught tap) is crisp and quenching, made with mint, lime leaf–infused Lillet, gin and a jasmine cordial. $19

 

The food

The menu, headed up by long-time BarChef vet Lionel Duke, is British-ish. There’s plenty of pub fare, but it’s reimagined through a modernist lens. Parker House rolls? Here, they come with black truffle butter. Instead of chips, fish is served with a carefully stacked potato pavé. Beef cheek is stuffed into a croquette for a deep-fried take on cottage pie. And roasted bone marrow (a decidedly un-pubby dish) is accompanied by house-made crumpets instead of the usual crostini.

An order of Scotch eggs, set aflame tableside, at Compton Ave., a cocktail bar in Toronto
These Scotch eggs are marinated ramen-style (the yolks hold their consistency better this way), then cupped in ground pork, Panko-crusted and double fried. And of course, there’s a bit of tableside pizzazz: the hay the egg rests on is set ablaze. “It adds a nice aroma,” says Duke. $11

 

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These fluffyYorkshire pudding puffs are stuffed with chopped picanha steak, a sous-vide egg yolk and a hickory-smoked creme fraiche
These fluffy Yorkshire pudding puffs are stuffed with chopped picanha (rump) steak, a sous-vide egg yolk and a hickory-smoked crème fraîche. On top: parmesan, black truffle and a nasturtium petal. $16

 

A take on Steak Diane at Compton Ave., a bar in Toronto
For this snazzier riff on steak Diane, picanha is grilled over charcoal and arrives in a cream-based sauce touched up with shallots, garlic, Worcestershire, hot sauce (“For body, not heat,” says Duke) and apricot purée. It’s sweet, savoury, salty and umami all at once. $19

 

The space

Solarik aims to take guests to a thumping UK house party in the basement of one of those aforementioned mansions. The walls are painted a rich burgundy, the leather bar stools have a nice patina and the trimmings are heavily gilded—right down to the paintings, which were sourced from a museum in Vienna. They somehow managed to pull this all together in just two months—the previous occupants closed up shop on New Year’s Eve.

The bar at Compton Ave, a cocktail lounge in Toronto
Shelves behind a bar are stocked with bottles of liquor and glassware
A room with burgundy walls is decorated with red leather couches
A shelf lined with framed photos, books and trinkets
A person seals a red envelope using a wax stamp
No one is ever excited about getting the bill, but this one comes presented on a gold tray in a wax-sealed envelope

 

A red envelope sealed with a wax stamp sits on gold tray next to a cocktail
“It’s just an extra detail to show we care,” says Solarik. “Goodbyes are the most important part of an experience—they leave a lasting impression”

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