by Pallavi MehraAug 12, 2023
Omar Gandhi Architects has done the interior design of an upscale restaurant in Toronto, Canada. Known as the Prime Seafood Palace, this eatery is located in the heart of the bustling neighbourhood of West Queen West. Situated inside an inconspicuous brick-clad building, the restaurant interiors are evocative of a light-filled wooden cathedral. Just as its name implies, the place serves modern Canadian cuisine with a focus on seafood and steak. Pivotal to the project was the realisation of a timeless space made using local materials that would gracefully age over time. The design studio utilised a material palette of wood and brass to create a venue for delicacies crafted by renowned Canadian chef Matty Matheson. Prime Seafood Palace’s interiors also pay homage to Matheson’s roots and love for Japanese and Scandinavian design.
Omar Gandhi Architects is a Canadian architecture studio with offices in Toronto, Ontario, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Established in 2010 by architect Omar Gandhi, the firm is recognised for its innovative, environmentally sustainable buildings and interiors. “Our starting point is an appreciation of the project’s surroundings and history. From there, we design with a humanistic approach, considering the lives and needs of those who will thrive within the finished product. We wouldn’t say we have a signature style, but we think our curiosity and innovative thinking that goes into each project is evident and celebrated in the design and construction of Prime Seafood Palace,” Stephanie Hosein, Associate at Omar Gandhi Architects tells STIR.
Prime Seafood Palace's interiors are inviting, aesthetically pleasing, and highly functional at the same time. The main entrance of the eatery is through a picturesque courtyard, away from the busy streets of Queen Street West. Upon entry into the primary dining area, guests are greeted with an imposing, double-height vaulted ceiling clad in wooden slats. The vault runs the length of the eatery and filters indirect natural light inside, creating a soft glow. In addition, vertical brass screens provide privacy while maintaining a subdued connection to the streets beyond.
The restaurant’s primary dining area features natural leather upholstered booths that are an ode to traditional diners, including Matty’s grandfather’s Blue Goose Restaurant on Prince Edward Island. A cantilevered canopy hangs over the bar and the semi-private dining section. The oak flooring in the primary dining space leads to a gentle ramp towards the open kitchen, offering patrons a glimpse of the expert culinary team cooking over the open wood-burning hearth. The restaurant design also houses an additional seating area overlooking the courtyard, which is imagined as an Ontario country cottage. Three pairs of steel and glass doors open into the courtyard providing guests with a unique indoor-outdoor dining experience.
Prime Seafood Palace is a chic and sophisticated eatery that has a natural material palette and a subdued colour scheme. “We knew from the start of the project that wood would be a primary material for the restaurant. Some of our earliest precedent images were those of Japanese and Scandinavian architecture, including stunning places of worship. The simplicity and timelessness of these projects inspired our design for Prime Seafood Palace, such as the use of wood and light as primary design elements. The colour palette of the space is very neutral—primarily maple wood with brass and natural leather accents. We intentionally avoided contrasting colours to maintain that neutrality throughout the project. The intent was for the space to serve as a backdrop for the main act—the unpretentious but exceptional food of cherished Canadian chef Matty Matheson,” says Hosein.
The highlight of Prime Seafood Palace’s interior design is the wooden slat vault of the primary dining room because of its beauty and complexity. “The design and construction of the vault,” explains Hosein, “was very challenging and involved many different consultants and trades. We worked closely with our structural engineer on the design of the support structure for the vault. The intent was for this entire support structure to be hidden behind the wood slats with no visible fasteners.”
She continues, “A series of custom-curved steel ribs are located at regular intervals along the entire length of the vault, suspended from the roof structure by cables. Our millworker was instrumental in executing our vision for the millwork component. Through a complex process of sketching, shop drawings, and multiple full-scale mock-ups, we worked together to come up with the fabrication process and associated details to achieve this. The maple slats were prefabricated into panels in the millworker’s shop, and those panels were fastened to the steel ribs with concealed fasteners on site.”
Furthermore, at Prime Seafood Palace, thoughtfully curated music and a state-of-the-art lighting control system help create a complete sensory experience. These elements highlight the restaurant’s attention to detail, which can be seen in the ambience, service, and food. The eatery’s open kitchen provides guests the opportunity to take a look at the chefs crafting delectable seafood and meat dishes using the freshest local produce. The restaurant’s rotating menu features beautifully plated, ingredient-forward, seasonal plates.
“We share the same attention to detail as Matty Matheson’s team who have set the bar high. It was critical to create a warm, inviting space, and the Prime Seafood Palace team has carried these design goals forward to how they operate the restaurant. The care that has gone into every architectural detail in the space has extended to the care that goes into the preparation of each dish and the customer experience,” remarks Hosein.
Omar Gandhi Architects collaborated with Coolican & Company, a local furniture maker, to custom-make the restaurant’s wooden furniture, including the large booth tables with concealed drawers for the Perceval steak knives from Thiers, France. Additionally, the wooden chairs incorporate brass spindles to complement the brass screens in the primary dining area. “Sustainability is a common thread that connects all our work, including this project. We continue to explore local technologies, materials, and methods for constructing with lumber. All of the wood for the space is locally sourced. We worked with local makers and trades, including Coolican & Company, who designed and produced the furniture in their shop outside of Toronto. Sustainability extends to food as well. The chefs cook with cherry wood coals from local farms, and source produce from Matty’s own Blue Goose Farm, beef from Ontario, and seafood from the Atlantic,” concludes Hosein.
Omar Gandhi Architects were able to craft a space that is timeless and free of trends using materials that develop a patina and continue to enrich the restaurant over time. Though it has been serving for over a year, its interiors look just as incredible as the day it opened.
Name: Prime Seafood Palace
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Architect: Omar Gandhi Architects
Design Team: Omar Gandhi, Stephanie Hosein, Jeff Walker, John Gray Thompson, Chad Jamieson, Lauren McCrimmon, Kristi MacDonald, Liam Thornewell
Restaurant Team: Matty Matheson, Gary Quinto, Coulson Armstrong, and Our House Hospitality Company
Physical model: Mary Ma
Structural Consultant: Diomis Engineering
Mechanical & Electrical Consultant: Spline Group
Code: LMDG Building Code Consultants Ltd.
Lighting Controls & Dimming: OneLX
Custom furniture: Coolican & Company
Millworker (primary): Canara Woodworking Inc.
Additional millwork: CNC Cutting Inc.
Custom concrete sinks: Brandon Gore (Hard Goods)
Custom booth pendants: Concord Custom Lighting
Custom signage: Filo Timo
Art: Darby Milbrath
Specialty paint finish: Handsome Painters
Uniforms: Rosa Rugosa
Contractor: Mazenga Building Group (primary), Bootstrap Design/Build
Manufacturers/Suppliers: Moncer (engineered hardwood flooring), Baro Klaus (selected furniture & specialty lighting), Stone Tile (tile), KOL (fibre cement cladding), Vaughan Electrical Supply (lighting), Nella (equipment), Stovemaster (brick hearth), MBH (Steel/glass doors), Sørensen Leather