Two gentlemen from Europe have brought the tastes of France and Spain to the Exchange District with a tapas bar that is as authentic as the historic buildings that surround it. Located at 93 Albert Street (former home of The Fyxx and Across the Board), co-owners Gael Winandy and Greg Stevenard chose to open up Cordova Tapas and Wine there because it reminds them so much of home.
“The Exchange District is so nice,” says Stevenard, with a thick French accent. “It is very comparable to Europe with its history and architecture. Everywhere you go, there are bricks, it’s so beautiful.”
Not only have the two young men started up a unique and authentic restaurant all on their own, they spent five and a half months renovating the space…by themselves…with very little experience.
“It was the first time we ever went to Home Depot or Rona,” says Winandy, laughing through his thick Belgian accent. “We did everything just the two of us from the tiling to the painting. The walls, they had like five layers of paint because every new owner would paint over the last one. We took off all the layers and now you can see the original wood.”
All their hard work is obvious when you walk around the space. The interior is absolutely stunning with greenery everywhere, including a living wall made up of various plants. The kitchen is open-concept and located behind the bar, where they also serve unique beers imported from Belgium, classic cocktails and an excellent selection of imported European wine. The vibe is cool and casual.
Gael Winandy (left) and Greg Stevenard (right) in front of their “living wall”.
Then there’s the food. Cordova Tapas and Wine is all about using local AND European ingredients. Their small plates are all inspired by the cuisine of Spain and southwest France. For instance, their cheese and charcuterie board is a popular item on their menu with five different kinds of cheese, five different meats and fresh bread from Sleepy Owl Bread.
“When we were planning the business, we went back to France and Spain for inspiration,” Stevenard says. “There are a lot of tapas bars there and seafood so it was very good inspiration. We love tapas because you can really change your menu over time and offer a lot of different things.”
Greg and Gael met at the University of St. Boniface. As the only two Europeans, they became fast friends. In 2011, the idea was borne to bring the flavours of their home to Winnipeg, and it went from there.
“We feel like we belong here,” Winandy says. “I’m also planning on moving to the Exchange and living here. To be honest, everyone we’ve met, all the business owners around here, they all have big dreams for the area and want things to happen. We couldn’t’ have dreamt of a better area to be in.”