Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

Mildred Pierce thrived as a favourite Toronto restaurant for nearly 20 years. When the lease ran up, owner Donna Dooher and Brian Brownlie, a principal at du Toit Architects, embarked on a two-year research, rebranding and design collaboration that culminated in Mildred’s Temple Kitchen. The sparkling new eatery is the culinary jewel in a formerly defunct industrial zone in the downtown’s west end, now sprouting trendy businesses and yuppie condos.

“The demographic at Mildred Pierce had been getting older,” Brownlie says. “That’s why we went to Liberty Village, to attract your 29-plus type while keeping on Donna’s more sophisticated, older clientele.” Some liken the new, 6,400-square-foot resto to an airport lounge, and Brownlie takes it as a compliment because the project is a multifunctional space, not just a restaurant. The space is flexible enough to host corporate events, weddings and fashion shows.

Leaving the core of the existing concrete shell untouched, Brownlie inserted a raised platform with a dropped ceiling to frame the open line kitchen with its counter top made from a single, 4-foot by-25-foot piece of stainless steel. This is the focal point — the eponymous temple — around which all activities revolve. The kitchen rests on a raised platform where spectators can gather round for dining events.

Besides the main dining area, there is a raised area at the bar for solo eaters, who can chat with the chef and interact visually with other diners. The curved banquette at the back of the room pays homage to the original restaurant, which was furnished with eight silk-wrapped banquettes, (once used in filming The Freshman, starring Marlon Brandon and Matthew Broderick).

As for the elegant chairs, Brownlie insisted, even before they had decided on a location, that Dooher stock up on the No. 71 chair, a.k.a. “the chair with the hole in the middle,” a perennially popular part of Knoll’s 1948 Saarinen collection. It fits a skinny ass and a big ass — you can’t beat it.

Design team: Brian Brownlie, David Dennis, Yvonne Lam and James Twine

HOSPITALITY category sponsored by TEKNION