Labora (Toronto)


In the evenings, the back of Campo Food Hall transforms into Labora, a tapas restaurant. With the rest of the stalls closed, there’s a sense of calm as you enter the space, like walking through a short alley to get to the restaurant.

While Labora isn’t as laid back as a small shop in Barcelona, it does have a casual vibe, which is why when our waiter asked if we like olives (before we glanced at the menu), my husband answered yes (even though I’m impartial to them). Soon a large plate of them arrived with a $7 charge to match. I’ve dined in countries where a snack charge is added to everyone’s bill. Usually, this means a plate is already sitting on the table and the menu generally calls out the cost. To have someone ask if you like olives, like if you want bread, and then charge you for it feels misleading.


Maybe if it was only $3 (and a smaller portion) it would be less noticeable. What arrives is a sizeable plate with four different types of olives marinated in citrus so makes it less pungent and almost sweet. As olives go, these aren’t bad. Just not my first choice for adding to the meal.

A dish like the Joselito lomo ($13.50) is what I would have preferred to snack on with beer. Sourced from an Iberico pig, it’s cut from the loin instead of the leg, so the meat is leaner but still melts on the tongue and has that lightly salted sweetness found in jamon. It’s also a good introduction to Iberico products, if you’re not sure if you want to shell out $30 for jamon.


The menu describes the pan tumaca ($6) as tomato rubbed ‘Cristal’ bread. What is Cristal bread? From what I deduced, the moniker likely references all the air pockets formed in the well-toasted airy bread that’s drenched with olive oil and so crunchy, it tastes deep fried. The thin layer of tomato paste is rather neutral, most of the flavours stem from the olive oil.


For something spicy, the bocata del calamari ($9.50 each) will have you reaching for a cerveza. Rings of lightly dusted deep-fried calamari are sandwiched in a brioche bun with tons of aioli, drizzled in hot sauce, and a pickled pepper is skewered through the squid. The pepper adds a juicy freshness to the sandwich but with the siracha was really spicy. Luckily, you can always pull it out and take small bites to temper the spice. The sandwich was delicious and one of my favourite dishes of the evening.


Another was the rubia gallega ($19.50) a cured Ontario ribeye that’s prepared like Iberico, thinly sliced then topped with honey mushrooms and truffle oil. The truffle oil was a bit overpowering when eating the beef on its own, but with crostini the flavours balance out. What a genius idea to use ribeye as the protein, the cut has enough fat for that lusciousness, like ham, and lends itself to taking on the lightly sweetened flavour.


After some heavier dishes the tumet ($19) was a welcomed contrast. The oven-roasted terrine made with thinly sliced zucchini, eggplant, and potato was a fairly big portion. Aside from the potato, the other vegetables became lost in the thick zesty tomato sauce so more of the zucchini and eggplant would make this even better.


Some dishes could have been good if only there wasn’t one overpowering ingredient added. Sometimes it just pays to keep it simple with seasonings like oil and salt.

The BC striped shrimp pintxos ($16), a special for the evening, takes the tiny shrimp and lines them onto whipped roe on toasted bread. These ingredients would have been more than enough: the roe salty with a rich seafood essence; the shrimp a little sweetness; and there’s even chives, adding a taste of the herb and colour. But then, a liberal sprinkling of paprika is added, completely overpowering the shrimp and giving a slightly bitter finish to the dish. 



Similarly, the sour grapefruit used in the serviola crudo ($18.40) covered the delicate yellow tail tuna. Maybe it has something to do with our waiter urging us to spoon the marinating liquid over everything, to get the coffee flavours. 


In all fairness, our waiter was extremely friendly and warm, I know he was just trying to make sure we had the best experience possible. However, I couldn’t taste any coffee and the sour grapefruit so pungent I coughed. Alas, the poor tuna no match for the citrus. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 433 King Street West (in the Campo Food Hall)

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


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