New restaurant taps into Olympic Village's potential
When Daniel Frankel opened The Mill Marine Bistro and Bar in Coal Harbour in 2002, there was only one nearby condo tower and Harbour Green Park was a field of mud. Now Coal Harbour is home to thousands of people who have turned The Mill into their neighbourhood restaurant.
So when he walked through Olympic Village looking for a site for his new brand restaurant, a culmination of all he’s learned as a Vancouver restaurateur, he didn’t concentrate on what wasn’t there. Instead, he focused on all the things the neighbourhood has going for it — a stunning view of BC Place and downtown towers, the Seawall which connects Olympic Village to both Stanley Park and Kitsilano, an Aquabus water taxi stop and the burgeoning Main Street neighbourhood a few blocks away.
And then he took a leap of faith. He signed a long-term lease and took over the western corner of Creekside Community Centre to create Tap and Barrel.
“I’ve always gone on gut feeling rather than market research,” he says during a tour of Olympic Village’s first restaurant, which he hopes to open a few weeks from now. “I walk around an area and ask if I can see myself going to a restaurant there.” And just as he fell in love with Coal Harbour 10 years ago, he’s fallen in love with one of the city’s last underdeveloped waterfront communities.
He’s read all the stories on the Village’s problems but he’s also talked to Bob Rennie, who recently sold 25 units in the Arthur Erickson-designed buildings (with pricetags between $1.5 and $8 million) Frankel is a believer, and he thinks he’s not the only one. London Drugs and Urban Fare are about to open here and he’s a huge fan of Village Cleaners. On the WE’s tour of the under-construction Tap and Barrel, there is a stream of young parents bringing their babies to a rec. program and a constant flow of foot and vehicle traffic going by 1 Athletes Way.
Frankel is also investing in the technology that will allow him to sell 14 types of BC wines on tap. Yes, on tap. He’s signing partnerships with BC vintners to buy 20 barrels a year. Considering that each barrel is the equivalent of 16,000 bottles of wine, that’s a lot of glasses he’s expecting to fill.
A special cooling system means that when a wine comes out of the spout at Tap and Barrel, it will be the first time it has been exposed to oxygen. It will also be the first time that the wine is not kept at the same, perfect temperature from the time it left the vintners to the time it’s pumped up glycol-encased tubes from the restaurant’s basement to the barrels lining the walls. He’s tested out the technology with eight taps at The Mill.
That’s just the wine. Also on tap will be 24 craft BC beers, reinforcing the Tap and Barrel’s branding model of being hyper-local and artisanal.
When it comes to the food, “our concept is casual comfort food made from scratch — honest food. Our pizza dough balls are kneaded in house, our burgers are made with meat ground in house, the meatloaf is my grandmother’s recipe.”
The executive chef is Rob Holland. There’s a state-of-the-art 800° pizza oven and they’re working on charcuterie and cheese sampling platters with local producers. (Keeping with WE’s meat cover, Frankel’s favourite suppliers are Two Rivers and Hills on the North Shore.)
When diners walk in, they’ll be welcomed by a three-sided fireplace. Straight ahead the centrepiece of the room is a rectangular bar, which will seat 36 people. To the left will be leather couches where you can gather with friends; high-top chairs and tables will line the two walls of windows that provide spectacular views of False Creek. At the back (closest to the water) are leather banquets and couches, a communal table and a private 12-seat dining area with huge barn doors. The patio, city ordinances allowing, will eventually seat 280 people.
And then there’s the upstairs dining area. Walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator so you can admire the work of BC artists, including Frankel’s friend Douglas Coupland.
The goal is to create an environment where the staff are enjoying themselves as much as the guests are. (Staff at the Daniel Hospitality Group —The Mill, Burrard Bridge and Grill, Prospect Point Café in Stanley Park, Stanley’s Park Bar & Grill, Stanley Park Pavilion and Stanley Park Trading Post — voted it the best restaurant group to work for in BC Business’s annual awards in 2011.)
Frankel’s dream is that this will be the first Tap and Barrel, with more to come across the country, with each site featuring local wines, beer and food. “This is a culmination of all my years in the restaurant business,” he says. “It’s what I’ve been wishing to grow.”
The first Tap and Barrel has yet to open but Daniel Frankel has already signed the lease for the second one at the Vancouver Convention Centre. “It’s going to be a hub, another community we love,” he says.
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