Great Spaces: Calgary’s Bar Annabelle is a hidden gem
This tiny 22-seat watering hole is pretty in pink.
If you blink, you might completely miss the blush-coloured door that leads into Bar Annabelle. That’s because the wine and tapas bar is quietly tucked alongside its big sister, Blink Restaurant and Bar, one of Calgary’s staple eateries in the heritage district of Stephen Avenue Walk. But seeking out that pink entrance is worthwhile: behind it, you’ll find the ideal spot for a modern-day flâneuse to perch with a glass of rosé at a sparkling onyx countertop.
The design world has successfully established that pale blush (a.k.a. millennial pink) is officially a neutral, and the interior design team at McKinley Burkart has embraced this decree in full force with Annabelle, pairing the colour with a lush olive green, velvety plums and antique brass throughout the 315-square-foot space.
It’s not all “millennial modern” here, though: a rich sense of history shines through. Housed in a 19th-century sandstone building, the bar had its fair share of design challenges—old plumbing, dodgy electrical work and “paper thin” walls—but McKinley Burkart was able to transform the space into something new while still maintaining raw elements and historic integrity. The solid brass archway is decidedly an Accidentally Wes Anderson candidate, with perfect symmetry evoking the glamour of yesteryear’s luxury railway cars. “Since it is an old building, those raw elements were important to me,” says Bar Annabelle owner Leslie Echino. “The brasswork feels so warm and welcoming; all of the tables, bar and shelving are wrapped in brass—I even bought matching cutlery.”
The tapas menu and the by-the-glass wine list changes weekly, with Echino bringing in labels that are often exclusive to the tiny 22-seat hideaway. (Japanese whisky and specialty gin are also on the menu.) The record player holds centre stage on the onyx-and-brass bar and plays a rotating selection from the house’s eclectic record collection, although guests are welcome (and encouraged) to bring in their own vinyl to spin. “I wanted a small, cozy space modelled after the fun wine bars that I have visited in New York, Madrid and Paris,” shares Echino. “My intent was to have a space that was intimate, where guests would interact with each other and make friends.”