Toronto, ON M5V 4B2
Those familiar with Mahjong Bar’s moody, retro vibes will recognize some familiar elements in the Bar Mordecai space, including low, glowy lighting and a design-forward theme.
But with Bar Mordecai, co-owners Emily Blake, Joshua LeBlanc, Andrew Perry and Kyle Wong swap Mahjong’s mid-century Hong Kong aesthetic for a hotel lobby-inspired space with a touch of Wes Anderson-style whimsy. The bar takes its name from Mordecai, the hawk featured in the Anderson film The Royal Tenenbaums.
To match the vintage lobby look, Bar Mordecai offers a sharing-style menu of haute hotel classics and a wine-focused drinks menu.
Chef Brian Ho has created a hip lobby bar-inspired menu to match the design theme. He says that the menu at Bar Mordecai has a more European influence to contrast with Mahjong Bar’s Asian-influenced eats. “We want them to be defined, different concepts,” explains Ho.
Playing off of the wine focus of the drinks program, Ho also aimed to curate a menu that pairs well with vino. “It suits the space and especially the wine,” says Ho. The small plates lineup lends itself well to drinks and snacks, but there are plenty of different dishes to choose from if you want to create a family-style dinner. Most of the ingredients, including the pastas, breads, cured meats, and sauces are made in-house.
Oysters get a satisfying extra zing from pink peppercorn mignonette, and come with a side of house-made hot sauce in case you want to take the flavour up a notch.
The white bean salad with sprouted lentil and a peppy white balsamic vinaigrette offers a lighter option to pair with meatier dishes like the lamb ribs and pastas.
The oxtail tortellini with celeriac and brodo is large enough that you could pair it with a few appetizers and then order it as an individual main.
The bite-sized mortadella sandwich is layered with semi-soft fontina cheese and classic ball park yellow mustard, and comes with a skewer of pickled veggies.
The daily bombolone are just right when you want a little something sweet to cap off your meal.
Wines are a focus of the bar program at Bar Mordecai and although the bottles span the globe, from Australian to local Niagara wines, most come from low-intervention vineyards. The beer menu offers a mix of European go-tos like Erdinger and brews from neighbourhood producers like Bellwoods and Blood Brothers.
“I thought about what I imagine when I think about going to a hotel,” says Perry of his approach to the cocktail program. He wanted to create a classic cocktail menu that would be at home both in a hotel bar across the world or one right here in Toronto, but get creative with the flavours. The caesar, for example, swaps out the usual vodka for a mix of akvavit and tequila for an umami-packed riff on the Canadian favourite.
The team recruited Grey North Design Studio, the same firm behind Mahjong Bar’s striking style, to design the Bar Mordecai space. The interior plays with traditional hotel lobby elements, including curving couches and a check-in desk reception area complete with banker’s lamps, but ups the cool factor by mixing modern and vintage elements – the latter of which the Bar Mordecai team worked with Grey North to source.
“I’ve always loved hotel lobby bars in my own city and when I’m travelling. There’s just something kind of special about them,” says Blake. “It’s something that feels a bit different and yet really familiar.”
Artist Sylvie Smith created a playful mirror mural behind the beautiful bar, which riffs on the old-school art characteristic of many hotel lobbies. The mural depicts animals in human form, but not just any furry creatures – the first panel features Smith’s own dog while Blake’s dog is depicted in another.
Bar Mordecai offers dinner and drinks on the main floor, but a downstairs space featuring themed private rooms for dining and karaoke is in the works.