After nearly two years of papered-over windows, Laura MacLeod is bringing the former Renaissance Clothing (1549 Barrington Street) space back to life with The Old Apothecary Bakery & Cafe, a bakery and hangout that’ll tip its hat to the building’s history. Currently in the renovation and decoration phase (think pop art French Provincial furniture), MacLeod aims to be ready to feed you buttery goodness by late April.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I was doing interior design for 17 years and getting a little tired of it, a little tired of fighting over what colour the sofa was going to be. I was always cooking, loved throwing dinner parties and that kind of thing and then my son got really interested in cooking. He started working in a restaurant and we just started talking about food all the time, and then he decided to go to culinary school. He went to the Pacific Institute for Culinary Arts [in Vancouver] and talking to him on Skype and finding out what he was doing I was like, yeah I want to go there too. He graduated last December and I started in January and graduated a year after him. I went there thinking culinary but really enjoyed the pace of the bakery end of things. You have to be a little more organized, it’s less fly by the seat of your pants, you can’t fix a recipe by tossing in a little bit of salt. You really have to be mindful of what you’re doing, but it’s really relaxing at the same time.
At what point did you decide you wanted to open this place?
It was around October that I was like, I’m going to go back to Halifax and I’m going to open a bakery. All of my family is here, it made sense to come home. I’d been away for 13 years and it was time. I’ve always loved Barrington, I grew up in the 80s and my friends and I used to hang out on Barrington and Spring Garden Road. This was the place to go. I knew that this was where I wanted to be.
What inspired the concept of The Old Apothecary?
The Old Apothecary was built as a drug store, originally. So it’s The Old Apothecary because that’s what it was! I wanted to pay a little tribute to the history of the building and that kind of evolved, I didn’t want it to be dated to the point that it looked like an antique store. I wanted to make it bright and welcoming, and one of those places you want to hang out. I'm going to have details from the early 1900s— the logo is Art Nouveau so its the right typeset for that period—but I want it to be a cool, modern place.
So menu-wise, can you give us a teaser?
I’m going to have five breads out of the gate—a regular sour bread, so we have white bread, but then an apple rosemary walnut bread and French-style baguette of course. All the chefs at the school were French-trained so they’ll tell you when you get it wrong! I’m going to do croissants. Pain au chocolate. Like I said it’s going to be all butter all the time. French macaron in five or six flavours, that’ll change seasonally. Eclairs. Lemon tarts. Salted caramel brownies. I’m going to do too bake-offs, one in the morning —so there’ll be fresh bread first thing—but then I’ll do a 2:30pm or 3pm bake-off so that when you’re going home you can grab some warm bread.