Dining out, when done well, is a complete experience. To stand out in Toronto means to go beyond wood beams and Edison bulbs. The food is, of course, always the focal point, but the whole scene needs to be set—from the drinks, to the service, to the details, to the all-important ambiance.
Here is Vv Magazine’s list of Toronto’s best designed restaurants—in short, the ones that encourage you to see the forest for the trees.
In January, the doors finally opened to the much talked about Oretta on King Street West. The Italian eatery that boasts the likes of chef Christian Fontolan, David Rocco, and restaurateur Salvatore Mele at its helm didn’t miss anything. The room is beautifully structured, with the dining room centred around the bar, which is the focal point. The marble bar was designed by Toronto’s Commute Design and isn’t the only show-stopping piece. The art deco inspired wall treatments and the colourful tiles (laid out in a chevron pattern) have been Instagrammed more than once. And while the design is stunning, trust us – the food is just as good.
It’s a slice of Parisian charm on Wellington St. from the sidewalk and pavilion patios, to the exquisite mix of blue and yellow accents, to the barrel-vaulted ceilings. Designed by AUDAX Architecture and Gianpero Pugliese, the 7,200 square foot space is divided into separate rooms and according to the design brief, one of their goals was to ensure that patrons, no matter where they are sitting, feel as if they got the best seat in the house.
Thanks to the creative genius of designer Tiffany Pratt, chef Victor Barry’s restaurant is bright, bold and fun. The restaurant, which was revamped after Splendido closed, cannot be missed. From the exterior, the restaurant is light pink with a bold floral treatment, one that Pratt shared Barry was unsure about. Every aspect of the space is unique and approachable; menus designed to look like newspapers, artwork created by Barry’s own daughter, floral wallpaper and black, gold and white dominating the colour palette. The space is memorable and the food, equally so.
Another French bistro, Cluny belongs to the already picturesque Distillery District. This restaurant is polished, elegant and decidedly ornate. The 11,000 square foot space was designed by Munge Leung Design and features patterned floors, touches of marble, blue-trimmed chairs and tables, and an intriguing blend of near-industrial grays and Art Deco inspiration.
To say that the brand new restaurant from chef Brandon Olsen is one of the hottest in the city would not be a lie. Packed nearly every night, the modern French restaurant has a 90-seat dining room with a modern touch thanks to Olsen’s fiancée, Sarah Keenleyside. While she worked with Mason Studio on the interior design to align with her vision, she personally curated the art inside the restaurant. The theme throughout the restaurant is very art deco with opulent chandeliers and beautiful gold-plated finishes.
When the first images of Bar Raval surfaced on Instagram, jaws dropped and fingers were set a-twitter—and for good reason. Designed by Partisans, this 1,980 sq ft restaurant is evocative of Mobius strips carved from mahogany. Part hollow-in-a-tree, part Nevada-esque landscape, Grant van Gameren tasked Partisan with creating comfort in a standing-room-only space—the notion was to encourage you to lean into the wood. Whether or not the lack of seating leaves something to be desired, this is undoubtedly a unique spot for pintxos.
If you’ve stepped into the brand-new Oliver & Bonacini restaurant at any point this year, your jaw may have dropped. The beautifully designed Leña debuted as part of the brand new Saks Fifth Avenue in Toronto. The three-floor restaurant boasts 11,000 square feet of space for a design concept executed by the DesignAgency. With rich colours, backlit etched glass, marble paneled walls and floor-to-ceiling windows, the restaurant combines historical and contemporary influences with a lot of style.
Khabouth and Harji’s Byblos is a two-floor one-two punch designed by Commute Design. There’s the spacious dining room with views of the stylish open kitchen and the bar area upstairs, and then there are details such as the blue cording on the delicate light fixtures hanging over the kitchen bar, or the curious blend of lounge-like brown leather, slick geometric design, and near-whimsical lighting. Echoing the Middleterranean bent to the food, there’s a balanced mix of coastal and purely modern colourways.
If you’ve logged onto Instagram in the last few months, you may have seen a leafy Instagram or two from Chase Hospitality Group’s new venture, Planta. The restaurant, which is focused entirely on plant-based cuisine, decided to dedicate much of the design to all things green and leafy. Inside the 5,000 square foot space, all the interiors were handled by East Studio and owner, Steven Salm. Brightened up by skylights, the walls boast one-of-a-kind wallpaper of leafs designed by Candice Kaye and a green leaf mural painted by Tisha Miles. With splashes of black and white throughout the green dominated space, make sure to stop by the swing canopy for your own Instagram moment.
Taking over the third floor of a heritage building at the corner of Queen St. and Spadina Ave., Alo is a venture from Patrick Kriss and Amanda Bradley. Another Commute Home design, the space exudes elegance with light gray banquettes, various tones of wood, and an abundance of natural light. Take a seat at the dim-lit bar and enjoy their cocktail program, or admire their open kitchen from the dining room.
Did we miss any of Toronto’s best designed restaurants? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.