by Andrew Morrison | Campagnolo on Main Street is launching a new space this week and patrons won’t have to go far to find it as it’s located right above the restaurant. To gain access to the 32 seater (nicknamed “Upstairs”), there’s a separate door to the right of Campagnolo’s entrance. It’s hard to miss as it’s bright green with a piece of brown leather – emblazoned with a hobo-style symbol (the letter “c” surrounded by up/down stairs) by none other than Ken Diamond – nailed to it at head height.
So what’s the upstairs all about? During my walkthrough the other day, I thought it looked a little clubby, like the private reserve of a bunch Spitfire pilots just landed in Malta after a morning spent strafing the shores of Tunis. Everything on the walls has some sort of special significance, whether it be framed awards and glowing accolades or the detritus of enterprises that didn’t exactly work out as planned. To wit, if you look carefully, you’ll find an artwork that used to be at Fuel Restaurant (now Fable in Kitsilano) hanging on one wall, and the beautiful neon Fat Dragon sign hanging on its side over the stairs. My favourite? The old gate from Adega – the restaurant that was in the space for some 30 years before Campagnolo took it over – can be seen hanging above the bar like a Sword of Damocles, reminding everyone of the impermanence of success. So have a drink.
Co-owner Robert Belcham explained that it’s for the regulars. “We get all kinds of people in the restaurant,” he said, “everyone from bikers and artists to lawyers and CEOs. They’ve always been on equal ground downstairs, and they’ve always supported us. So this is a place for them.” It certainly looked like it was shaping up to be a cool place to go for relaxed, bullshit-free ambiance with unfussy food and some well-made drinks without loud music, cover charge, or pretension. You sort of have to know that it’s up there to patronize it (I like that), and the stretched piece of leather on the door hardly says “welcome”. And yet everyone will be this Thursday (tomorrow) when it opens to the public.
Peter Van de Reep has come down from Campagnolo Roma to run the place (that’s him to the right of co-owner Robert Belcham pictured above), and he’s lined up a sweet-looking selection of casked cocktails and such. For food, Peter will be cutting Belcham’s own prosciutto straight from the bar, and runners will be bringing up items from a short and sweet menu that includes a redux Refuel’s infamous off-menu Dirty Burger . For the uninitiated, that’s a house-made scotch bap bun fried in butter/lard enclosing a patty made with ground, 40 day-aged beef that’s been fried in onions and topped with American cheese and secret sauce. So yeah…see you there.