Leña is a cool taste of Barcelona living, right in the centre of the financial district’s bustle

By Ross Vernon Dias

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A cool taste of Barcelona living, right in the centre of the Financial district’s bustle

Written by Ross Dias 

Location: 176 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M5C 2L7

Must-try eats: The salt cod with ’nduja (a spicy Italian pork sausage), potato, and a sprinkling of herbs is just the right amount of light summer fare to pair with boiled-egg aiolï.  

Libations: Share chilled bottles of Estrella Damm lager with some good company, whether that’s a few co-workers or a client. 

Where to sit so you’re in-and-out in 60 minutes: Grab a banquette by the windows facing Richmond Street for a meal with a view.  


The main level of Leña, at the southeast corner of Yonge and Richmond streets.

The Argentinian restaurant opened its doors on the south-eastern corner of the Queen Street Hudson’s Bay in 2017, inspired by recipes from O&B executive chef Anthony Walsh’s mother-in-law, Elena Arevalo. In addition to the main level, there’s a basement lounge, a second floor dining room, and private dining rooms on the third level. 

The space features luxurious art deco-styled interiors, with a dash of tropical wallpaper and plush multi-hued seating. The main level all-day bar is outfitted with a central heritage pillar-cum-light source that looks like something out of a Harry Potter film if it were directed by Baz Luhrmann.


Executive chef Julie Marteleira prepares the hearts of palm ceviche.

For this summer’s iteration of the Estrella Damm Tapas Journey, executive chef Julie Marteleira concocted three tapas to push the boundaries of the restaurant’s pan-Latin-American cuisine. Tapas journey is annual event where gastronomes in Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa can relish prix-fixe Spanish-style bites at top restaurants, alongside a beer for $20. From August 10 to 19, 39 restaurants will participate across Toronto including Bar Raval, Constantine, Madrina, and Leña. 

A light drizzle of oil atop the salt cod and ‘nduja completes the dish.

Marteleira didn’t stray too far for inspiration, borrowing a few key ingredients from Leña favourites, including the salt cod fritters and the pork belly entrée, but the flavours are totally reinvented. Crispy pork belly is served with charred cabbage and jalapeño peppers, for a little kick, in a pool of fermented red pepper sauce. The hearts of palm ceviche is a vegan play on a traditional favourite with some tamarind ‘leche de tigre.’ And the highlight of the meal is the salt cod and ‘nduja, with a near perfect mix of savoury and spicy flavour.


Need I even mention the perfect accompaniment to your delectable trio of tapas? A chilled, refreshing pint of Estrella Damm lager, brewed in Barcelona since 1876, really hits the spot. The lager gets its distinct profile from a several months-long storage at near-freezing temperatures. Golden-hued, with the scent of fresh spices and bitter tones at the back of the mouth, the lager is the final ingredient that will transport patrons to Mediterranean life, where eating and drinking is the only way to spend long afternoons in the sun.