You can see by the look in people’s eyes that everyone is waiting to mix and mingle, as we did in the old days—the pre-pandemic days. Now that we’ve all done our part, Victorians are looking for what’s new “behind bars.” In the last two years, some restaurants have closed, sadly, others have hung on, and now, the spring renaissance is here.
Monday Magazine to the rescue as our curious taste team has compiled a list of new bars and restaurants that have popped up since late 2021. Restauranteurs are risk takers, certainly, but let’s give these post-pandemic entrepreneurs credit for bravery.
First on the list:
L’Apero Wine & Cheese Bistro on Blanshard Street gets a big “bravo!” The name itself stands for a “French evening ritual that combines drinks, small plates and friends, often lasting long into the night…”
The menu itself is impressively ever-changing, but Monday’s mission was to try out the drinks. We soldiered on and were offered two opera-themed specialties. L’Apero is up to something very unique here, with its throwback to the pre-Second World War days, when wine-based aperitifs were popular. Who knew?
“Mimi’s Last Breath,” named as a reference to the opera La Boheme, was a delicious blend of Lillet Blanc, Lustau vermut, dry Curaçao, sparkling wine and orange peel. Absolutely beautiful and just in time for spring sipping.
On to “The Kiss of Tosca.” This one pays homage to all the drama of its namesake opera by Puccinni. Matching the complicated storyline, the drink features campari, vermouth, hibiscus syrup, sparking wine and finished with a show stopping Amarena cherry. Dark and delicious, it called for an encore.
Meet the maestro and co-owner of L’Apero, Page Loten, who indeed has the most entertaining stories as the perfect side dish.
What’s the concept behind L’Apero? The pandemic has isolated us and challenged us to take a simpler approach to life and to each other. We wanted to open a place where people could reconnect in an intimate, un-rushed setting, but with a basic approach that appealed to and included everyone. People have been drawn together over wine and cheese for millennia. Guillaume’s passion for cheese and my passion for wine was a perfect fit.
What’s hot right now? Our wine-based aperitif cocktails are pretty hot—at least that’s what our guests tell us. They have a sophisticated, vintage quality—a throwback to before WWII when their popularity was at its height. People are loving the subtle, balanced complexity of flavours that isn’t bogged down by heavy alcohol. There’s such a wide spectrum and people are loving discovering—or rediscovering—wine aperitif cocktails.
What makes a good bartender? A bartender who actively listens contributes more to the guest experience than any other aspect, no matter their skill or the quality of their ingredients. When someone listens to you, you feel valued.
What’s your signature drink? Mimi’s Last Breath: Lillet Blanc, Lustau vermut, dry Curaçao, sparkling wine and orange peel
What are you drinking these days? Vermouth. I’m loving a variety of vermouths lately, local and international, and discovering some amazing cheese pairings. We feature a Mariage Vin et Fromage, which is a flight of three wines paired with cheese, and I’m in the process of developing flights of vermouth paired with cheese, which is really exciting. The possibilities are endless!