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Inside Five New Toronto Restaurants Where Design Runs Wild

Birch walls, neon lighting and terracotta paint define five new Toronto restaurants serving up delicious bites in beautiful spaces

By Sara Cunningham

Above: Lady Marmalade by Omar Gandhi Architect on Broadview Ave. Photo by Janet Kimber. Artwork by Anna Church

Photo by Ben Rahn/A-Frame Inc.

Sassafraz

The historic Yorkville hangout at Cumberland and Belair – the place for celebrity-spotting – has reopened with a new, sage-green coat of paint overtop its once bright yellow exterior. Led by Toronto’s DesignAgency, who also crafted the interiors for the Broadview Hotel and Kōjin restaurant, the dining room and s-bar now have a distinguished European feel. Curved banquettes, horizontal mirrors and custom lighting by Toronto studio Anony lends the space a certain je ne sais quoi, while a double-height green wall adds freshness. Nestled in a row of Victorian buildings, the new Sassafraz retains its sunny yellow-painted door, a sign that there’s still nostalgia within.

 

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Photo by Larissa Issler.

Clay

Located in the Gardiner Museum’s light-filled Terrace Room, which also hosts events, is a new restaurant from the museum and The Food Dudes. The earth-toned palette, including a deep terracotta-coloured bar, ochre dining chairs and curved pink room dividers are all thanks to local interior design firm Denizens of Design, who took inspiration from clay-making – and naturally, the museum’s expansive collection of ceramic art. Details throughout reference the clay studios in the museum’s basement; for example, in the lounge area, tables invoke potter’s wheels and the act of ‘throwing’ clay via engraved rings in the wood. Multi-layered and well researched, this restaurant is the perfect ending to a museum day trip.

 

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Photo by Janet Kimber.

Lady Marmalade

The popular east end brunch spot’s new location on Broadview Ave is a celebration of heritage and contemporary architecture – and a mouth party for egg, bacon and avocado lovers. Toronto’s most wanted architect, Omar Gandhi, turned the 1885 building into a soaring eatery with a light-filled, triple-height entryway and two storeys of dining space. The interior features 460-square metres of Baltic birch wood and 100 wall-mounted plants to help control acoustics. Cedar cladding was added to the building’s original brick façade to highlight the changes inside – without covering up too much of the past. 

 

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Photo by Ted Chai.

Sara

Odami, an emerging design team led by Spanish architect Aránzazu González Bernardo and Canadian designer Michael Fohring, took full advantage of the prismatic attic they found in the 1900s-era Victorian townhouse on Portland Street. The peaked, double-height ceiling in Sara’s second floor dining room is like a crisp horizon line, demarcating the curved wood, velvet and leather bench seating below. The space exudes seaside serenity – from the subdued, earth toned palette to curving lines. Hidden cellphone compartments in each tabletop ensure a distraction-free dining experience (there’s no reception at the beach, right?)

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SoSo Food Club

“So bad it’s good,” could be the unofficial motto for this Dundas West hotspot – at least when it comes to design. Co-owned by a team of Chinese food enthusiasts craving an antidote to the super-polished interiors crowding out Toronto’s gloriously tacky eateries (you know, where the food is great but the tablecloths are plastic), SoSo claims 80s Hong Kong bars and clubs, this “hardcore” Instagram account and North Korean interior design as influences. Constantly evolving, the team is currently working with artists to bring installations into the space.

 

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