October 1, 2008
A Toronto design studio brings its skewed sensibility to bear on a restaurant.
Oddfellows, a new restaurant on Toronto’s Queen Street West, is part urban lodge, part laboratory. Named after the ancient British societies established by trade guilds, the restaurant is furnished with works in progress from Castor, a local design studio with a woodsy product portfolio. “We put in our products and prototypes, and we’re designing the food too,” says Brian Richer, who founded the firm with Ryan Taylor in 2005.
The restaurant, which is owned and operated by Castor, was born when Kei Ng joined the studio. Ng already owned a restaurant (named Kei) in the future Oddfellows space, and the trio decided to make it over. A 24-foot-long communal table with a 1.5-ton limestone top and custom cast-aluminum legs now anchors the interior. Each leg has a different profile and was originally crafted in wood by the designers. “We carved this baroque leg and cast it in aluminum,” says Richer, noting that the other legs are less ostentatious. “At the end, there’s just a two-by-four with nails in it, which we also cast in aluminum.” The piece is actually a prototype for a customizable dining table that Klaus by Nienkämper will release this month. Above it hangs the 20-foot-long Recycled Tube Light, which Castor makes from burned-out fluorescents that are backlit by incandescent bulbs. The bar is clad with identical cast-aluminum barn boards, metal clones that will also be used in a furniture collection that Castor is developing. In case the rough-and-tumble nature of the interior wasn’t already apparent, there’s a steel wall with an integrated multimedia system that appears to have come from the Cold War era. Lights and speakers are connected to a power source with guitar cables, and controls look “like nuclear-weapon switches,” Richer says.
For food, the restaurant will feature hearty fare and plenty of meat. “We’re doing a pressure-cooker wild-boar stew and wild-boar burgers,” Richer says. “Friday nights will also be grazing nights, where the table is just filled with food.” But whatever the meal, the food will be “curated,” he promises, to look artful. That’s one of the perks of maintaining control over the business—they can dictate every aspect of the project, just as they do with their witty products (most of which are self-manufactured). “We’ll do some funny stuff too,” Richer says. “We’re doing a dish called Soylent Green, and we already have really great plates for it.”