24 May 2019 • Lauren Grace Morris
How to make a tapas bar contemporary? Make it comfortable
Ask anyone: tapas bars are amongst the most convivial spaces one can find themselves in. Though, they’re not the most accommodating – the relaxed approach to hospitality often lends itself to cramped spaces, loud acoustics and limited seating options. But the gastronomic typology is maturing, if even far from its origin. Como Taperia is a good example, an exciting new addition to Vancouver’s hospitality scene thanks to the design-mindedness of local studio Ste. Marie.
The opening comes at an opportune time for similar foreign-food endeavours in the city to thrive. British Columbians are spending more on dining out than ever, and the city’s growing tourism industry is awash with opportunity. Only recently, Ste. Marie’s team was behind the interiors of Caffè La Tana, an Italian alimentari that has the same effect of the taperia: makes the traditional feel unexpectedly novel.
But with Como Taperia the studio wanted to accomplish this by taking a less maximal approach to spatially interpreting Spanish cuisine, to reflect the utilitarian, clever nature of the country’s working class (and original patrons of tapas bars). So they set out to tie Spain and Vancouver together in a space that wouldn’t feel overly fussy or inauthentic.
‘We recognized that part of the success of these bars is that they are lively, that the service is informal and hospitable, but that there is no effort spent on the physical comforts and norms of North American dining,’ said Ste. Marie’s lead designer, Rachel Martinuk.
The space is certainly more liberally laid out than many of its predecessors (it’s 130-sq-m, and has room to fit nearly 60 comfortably). They had some regionally appropriate points of inspiration to inform their colour palette, like the work of Joan Miró – identifiable by the touches of blue – and Salvador Dalí. A major reference point for materiality was Barcelona’s heavily-graffitied Jardins de le Xemenies, the remains of a 20th-century power station with three brick chimneys that backdrop Poble Sec.
‘At Como, our goal was to provide a casual spot that clients could relax, have a little fun, and enjoy themselves,’ Martinuk remarked. ‘That’s all.’