“Nouveau rustic” is how chef and co-owner Hanosh Dubash describes Bell ‘n Whistle, an 87-seat bar and bistro that has breathed new life into a historic Royal Bank building in downtown Saskatoon.
By Lawrence Herzog
It’s a place where old meets new and east meets west with a glorious fusion twist.
Using lessons learned at Saboroso, his acclaimed Brazilian steakhouse, 35-year-old Dubash and his team worked to wow guests from the moment they came through the door. The century-old building’s columned façade frames a high-ceiling interior with walls of individually-placed stone and roughened spruce. Creative décor touches include wine barrels around the bar sawn to create shelving for wine.
Renovations took two-and-a-half months, and when the bar and bistro was ready, the team opened the doors for a soft opening last July. They asked for critical feedback from guests, worked the kinks out, and opened again for the general public a few days later. “It was very important for us to nail it down and do it right,” he says. “You do it once, you do it right.”
Originally from India, Dubash completed his culinary diploma at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa, and lived in Vancouver, Montréal and Ottawa before coming to Saskatoon in 2011. His approach to food meshes Canadian comfort with Asian inspiration, “bringing in new flavours to take an item from ordinary to ‘Wow!’ We make everything in house, and it is a labour of love.”
The bar menu is dominated by classic and trendy cocktails, also with a twist. Take the Colossal Caesar, which is built in a steak spice-rimmed glass with vodka and Clamato juice and garnished with tiger shrimp, pickled garlic, a queen olive, smoked cheese and spicy pickled asparagus. Theatricality is encouraged, and Bell ‘n Whistle bartenders are locally renowned for blowing a little fire now and then.
“It gives patrons something to talk about when they spread the word about their dinner or their cocktail at our place,” Dubash explains. “At its core, we’re successful because we make sure the guests have a unique, great experience.”
- Resist the urge to rush your opening. First impressions are lasting impressions, so don’t invite guests in until everything is complete.
- Create the buzz by advertising and then make sure ambience, food and beverages meet guest expectations to drive excellent word of mouth.
- Be creative in the kitchen. Introduce new flavours into old standards to take ordinary to outstanding.
- Go healthy and gluten-free with as many menu items as possible. Guests will thank you for them.