Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Lady Marmalade, at 265 Broadview Ave., is one of two restaurants populating architect Omar Gandhi's lauded portfolio.

Janet Kimber

“I think we’re retiring at two, to be honest,” says architect Omar Gandhi, as filtered light from a thick Halifax fog bursts through the window over his right shoulder. “They’re a lot of work, and I just can’t imagine having better clients than the two that we’ve had.”

Which means, fellow Torontonians, that when Matty Matheson opens his new eatery on Queen West in the fall, there will be exactly two restaurants populating Mr. Gandhi’s lauded portfolio; the other, Lady Marmalade, at 265 Broadview Ave., being the subject of our Zoom call.

So, just as Mies van der Rohe disciples once had to pilgrimage to Montreal’s Nun’s Island to gas up at the Bauhaus master’s one-and-only service station, devotees of Canada’s “next top architect” (as The Globe and Mail billed him in 2016) must come to Toronto to dine in a Gandhi. And no doubt there are fans: Since founding Omar Gandhi Architects in 2010, the Brampton-born, Halifax-based architect has had his striking and stoic coastal houses written up in countless international publications, and was awarded the Canada Council’s Prix de Rome prize in 2014.

Story continues below advertisement

Now 40, Mr. Gandhi laughs when asked if he felt like an enfant terrible back then. “I don’t think so at all, I’m pretty goodie two-shoes I’d say,” he chuckles. When reminded that the term also means a “young and successful person who is strikingly unorthodox, innovative or avant-garde,” he still balks. “I think some other people deserve that a bit more than me. I wouldn’t say that I’m pushing the boundaries all that much.”

Natalia Simachkevitch hired Mr. Gandhi on the advice of her contractor.

Bob Gundu

Natalia Simachkevitch, one-half of the team behind Lady Marmalade, probably disagrees. After purchasing an already-gutted 1885 building to relocate her successful Leslieville brunch spot to, she hired Mr. Gandhi on the advice of her contractor, Derek Nicholson, even though the other architect she’d interviewed had more experience with restaurant design (it didn’t help, she says, that he came across like “a wet blanket” when proclaiming a restaurant in such an old building probably wasn’t the best idea).

“And Omar was, like, ‘I’m gonna destroy this project, we’re gonna bring in light, we’re gonna do this and that, and cut it open!’ and I thought, ‘Okay, I’m with this guy!‘ ” she remembers with a big laugh.

Note to other restaurateurs: Sometimes it’s better to hire the guy with his head in the clouds than the guy with his feet stuck in mud.

Mr. Gandhi did indeed “destroy” the building, in the best possible way: Since nothing was left of the interior – which was dark and confining anyhow – he suggested to the couple (the other half is David Cherry) that they let him rip away portions of the building’s floors to open things up right from the ground to the third floor.

“We sold them on the experience,” says Mr. Gandhi, who partnered with his friend Drew Sinclair of SvN on the project. “It’s a narrow building, right, and they needed space for their office. … It allowed them to imagine the different kinds of events they could have there.

“The diagram, from the outset, was about sculpting,” he continues. “It was all about taking away, and carving out, and allowing light to get down to that bottom level … that was the exercise, it was taking an eraser and starting to take out floor plates … from here, you’re going to look down to here.”

Story continues below advertisement

Bob Gundu

Baltic birch paneling covers almost all of the approximately 5000 sq. ft. of the brunch spot.

Bob Gundu

Ms. Simachkevitch and I, along with the head of Mr. Gandhi’s Toronto office, Stephanie Hosein, are standing on the tiny portion of what’s left of the third floor. Here, in the Lady Marmalade office, one can indeed look down to witness photons penetrating every corner of the restaurant, and illuminating the approximately 5000 square feet of Baltic birch paneling that covers almost everything. The precision with which these panels interlock – the strapping behind them was painted black to highlight the razor-thin gaps – and the clean, bright-yet-homey feeling they create is a reflection of the food that’s served here, which is non-greasy, locally sourced and beautifully presented.

Which makes it ironic that Ms. Simachkevitch first suggested a dark-wood, tiled, Parisian café theme to Mr. Gandhi, who, she remembers, countered with “‘but all the photos you post of food have so much light,’ and some of the images he was sending back to me made so much sense.”

“I think people come to you because they’re hoping you can give them something they haven’t thought of,” Mr. Gandhi confirms. “The food is a part of the space, the smell is part of the space; all of it reads as one cohesive idea and experience.”

Janet Kimber

Mr. Gandhi enjoys the surprise people may have when coming in from the outside to see 'its openness and the light, but also the golden glow.'

Janet Kimber

And that experience turned out to be something of a surprise. “From the street, you would never, in a million years, imagine what you were walking into, both in terms of its openness and the light, but also the golden glow,” Mr. Gandhi says. “On the outside, it’s just a rugged brick building in a dilapidated-but-turning-the-tide kind of neighbourhood.”

“It’s unexpected,” Ms. Hosein agrees. “It’s something we try to do with our more urban work, too, it’s ‘how do we blend in with the urban fabric?’ We don’t want an ostentatious box.”

Indeed, other than a few strips of wood, a big window and a clean font, not much has been done to compete with the pockmarked, 135-year-old exterior; even an ugly, graffitied patch of peach paint was left untouched. It’s humble on the surface, but full of confidence on complexity on the inside – rather like the architect who penned it.

Story continues below advertisement

It’s also something Toronto restaurateurs should take note of, especially since there are so many other tired, old buildings on second-tier streets that await new life.

Your house is your most valuable asset. We have a weekly Real Estate newsletter to help you stay on top of news on the housing market, mortgages, the latest closings and more. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies