It’s what’s on the inside that counts, don’t judge a book by it’s cover, beauty lies within, yeah yeah yeah…
Yes, the substance of a thing, whether that be a person or a novel, is what matters most. When it comes to restaurants, that inside better be filled with delicious treats, preferably covered in either Nutella or gravy. But let’s not kid ourselves, before we put our butt in the seat we always give the place cursory review. True, some places defy the odds and thrive on the street cred that brings people in no matter how grungy the front windows look. But there is something to be said for those restaurants who have mastered both the beauty of their eats as well as the atmosphere where all that eating gets done.
In the spirit of our own jazzy new look (and the same delicious jazzy filling) here at Naked Underground Toronto, let’s give some credit where credit is due and highlight some truly beautiful looking places in the city with the eats to match.
This bar should be (and is) on the top of every restaurant design list, and I shouldn’t have to say much more after you’ve walked into Bar Raval. Designed by canuck design group PARTISANS, the striking flow of mahogany wood throughout the bar was inspired by Art Nouveau magazines and Spanish influences (such as Gaudí), along with the desire to be the “best bar in the world”. What might initially look like a really souped-up hobbit home is actually a design and engineering marvel, and completely awe inspiring. Keep in mind a visit might mean you’ll be waiting in line on a Saturday night, but once you get in, taste whatever they suggest – you won’t be disappointed.
The best coffee shops are always about the best coffee, but add sprawling wood beams and giant windows, tin ceiling tiles and industrial lighting, and I would live in front of the espresso machine. Dark Horse opened it’s Spadina location in 2009, and it remains the most inspiring of the local chains locations. Communal tables flank the entrance, but with the light that flows into the airy cafe you’ll never feel crowded. The space was tapped by Suits for filming in 2011- the show that films almost entirely in Toronto and always finds the best corners in bars around the city. The cafe’s interior is a fresh bite of ocular candy, alongside the respectable coffee and tempting treats that you can actually eat.
Light fixtures that hang like sparkling solar systems aren’t usually the first thing that I think of for well-placed restaurant decor, but Byblos in King West proves me wrong. The highly stylized space is filled with light and interest, and the geometric cuts covering the windows somehow escape a dated feel and feel fresh and fitting against the circular booths that dominate the main floor. Upstairs, the eclectic collection of middle eastern pitchers and containers add interest to an otherwise simpler space, and the vast collection of porcelain pendant lamps is a personal favourite. The food is also dynamite as well, and I highly recommend the Turkish Manti Dumplings.
Probably the most streamlined and minimal pick on my list, Parts and Labour is the balanced combination of whimsy and institutional restraint. It’s almost as if the place is split in half – on one side, large communal tables and industrial lighting presents as sterile and uninviting on it’s own, but when the seats are packed it balances the multi-coloured pendant lamps and playful corkscrew stools that frame the bar on the other side. The effect is a space with style that also serves as partially painted canvas – and the patrons finish the landscape. The house cocktails are always on point, and the menu is short and sweet and always shines. Mac and cheese forever!