It was a cold and dreary day in the middle of winter in Calgary when Corbeaux Bakehouse welcomed me for the first time. An elegant, European-style gathering spot like no other establishment in Calgary, this restaurant is more like a friend than a place. If you let her, Corbeaux Bakehouse will not only brighten your winter, she will draw you back within her walls again and again and become the backdrop of many memories for years to come.
Designed by local Calgary designer Sarah Ward of Sarah Ward Interiors, the interior is brightly lit thanks to an incredible skylight and large windows on the front and side walls. A fresh black-and-white color scheme is both warm and sophisticated with lots of wood and brass accents providing the perfect backdrop to highlight the cases full of eye-catching pastries, breads, and specialty sandwiches.
I wanted to know what inspired Sarah when she approached the project and she said the French influence was paramount to the concept, not just in the food and style that Corbeaux was aiming to achieve, but in the philosophy and experience that they were intent on delivering.
We wanted to create this beautiful, welcoming space that would support a variety of experiences but not be too dictatorial about it. There’s a wonderful freeness about designing a room that way, and I think it has created a sociable and spontaneous atmosphere in the space.
“We all did a lot of research”, Sarah says, “and I thought a lot about the aesthetic identity that I wanted to create. The design became a study of contrasts: feminine and masculine, hard and soft, dark and light. We selected the Art Nouveaux inspired floor tile very early on, and I contrasted that with inspiration from Moderne design, the glossy grids of black tile, the arcing bench lights, and the pastry kitchen enclosure with its brass inlays. The space wasn’t easy to work in, and I also took a lot of risks with the design so it’s really incredibly rewarding to see how delightfully it came together, and how quickly it has been embraced by the community.”
From the moment it was announced that Chris and Russ Prefontaine (the Calgary brothers responsible for the very successful Fratello Coffee Roasters and Analog Cafes) were taking over the old Melrose Red Mile space to open Corbeaux Bakehouse there was a lot of excitement and speculation over what it would be. Promises of freshly baked breads and pastries along with an ever-changing menu inspired by high-quality, local ingredients were followed by the surprising decision to bring in Chef Keith Luce from the other side of the border to lead the culinary team. Luce is well-known for his commitment to using locally-sourced ingredients and his amazing resume that documents his well-travelled career from the Rainbow Room in New York City, to the White House, to Europe and back again.
Chef Luce spoke at the opening and quickly won over everyone in the restaurant as he thanked the Prefontaines for their passion and vision and then went on to explain the concept behind Corbeaux Bakehouse. (For full remarks, click HERE.)
There are two ways to get your food at Corbeaux Bakehouse. If you want to grab something and go, you can head straight to the glass counter right inside the front door and place your order. If you want to stay and eat, there are no reservations and it is always busy so be prepared for about a twenty minute wait.
The menu at Corbeaux Bakehouse is neatly sectioned under Bake Shop, Butcher Shop, Kitchen, Cheese, and Desserts. Most things, outside of the entrees which are listed under Kitchen, are well-suited for sharing. I would recommend any of the food that I have tried with maybe the exception of the lasagna but I will give them another chance to change my mind on that.
I would be surprised if anyone could leave Corbeaux Bakehouse without taking something home from the bakery. I left with brioche to make French Toast with the next morning and an assortment of baked goods for my family to enjoy. (I’ve also been back twice in the past month and still haven’t had my fill!)
Corbeaux Bakehouse, with it’s elegant warmth and it’s delicious food, has brightened Calgary’s winter and completely won my heart.