Lady Mar­malade’s new look

Af­ter a decade on Queen East, Les­lieville’s favourite brunch joint gets a jaw-drop­ping modern makeover

NOW Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - [email protected] | @na­tal­ia­man­zocco Story by NATALIA MANZOCCO

Lady Mar­malade (265 Broad­view, at Dun­das, 647-3517645, la­dy­mar­malade.ca) spent nearly 10 years as the undis­puted – if you con­sider the pres­ence of line­ups a re­li­able met­ric – reign­ing brunch queen of Les­lieville. Week in and week out, sun or sleet, the faith­ful would as­sume their posts out­side, vy­ing for a bite of ched­dar waf­fles and co­chinita pi­bil Bene­dicts.

In terms of au­di­ence ap­peal, the food out­matched the look of the room, which was pretty typ­i­cal, low-key café stuff: mis­matched retro chairs and crock­ery, scream­ing-green walls and tight aisle­ways where wait staff, pa­trons and strollers jock­eyed for po­si­tion.

It’s safe to say the Lady, which of­fi­cially re­opened in new digs on Broad­view last week, is no longer the unas­sum­ing wall­flower we’re used to.

The restau­rant’s new home, the prod­uct of a two-year gut ren­o­va­tion process, is pretty much guar­an­teed to get one re­ac­tion out of ev­ery­one who crosses its blonde wood-pan­elled thresh­old: “This is a brunch place?”

Set in­side a 19th-cen­tury for­mer home, the new Lady Mar­malade is a two-floor space swathed in 5,000 square feet of Baltic birch, which forms walls that jut out to cre­ate benches and counter space. Sky­lights and mas­sive win­dows let nat­u­ral light pour into the spare, modern room, while sus­pended bulbs and more than 100 hang­ing plants add char­ac­ter.

“Ev­ery de­ci­sion was very well thought out – it’s one the rea­sons this was a two-year process,” says Natalia Si­machke­vitch, who co-owns the spot with hus­band David Cherry.

“This is our per­ma­nent home. This is our for­ever home. This is, Lady Mar­malade is not mov­ing again.”

The de­ci­sion to move was based on a de­sire to find a space they could own, Si­machke­vitch says, adding that they looked at lo­ca­tions on Ger­rard be­fore set­tling on the Broad­view space. “We knew we wanted to stay close to their lo­ca­tion, be­cause we wanted to keep the neigh­bour­hood happy. This is about a 10-minute walk. When we saw this build­ing, we re­ally fell in love with the his­tory and char­ac­ter of it.”

The build­ing was orig­i­nally meant to be con­verted into lux­ury apart­ments by the pre­vi­ous owner but had been left mid­way through the process in a gut­ted state. “It seemed re­ally like a sim­ple thing to just put a restau­rant in it,” Si­machke­vitch dead­pans.

“It didn’t have run­ning wa­ter. It didn’t have heat. We had to bring in in­su­la­tion. The run­ning wa­ter is on the other side of Broad­view, so we had to tun­nel un­der the street­car tracks to bring it over.”

But they saw po­ten­tial – as did Omar Gandhi (of the epony­mous Hal­i­fax-based firm Omar Gandhi Ar­chi­tect), who took on the build for the firm’s first Toronto pro­ject.

“Omar was like, ‘How do we open it up? How do we get lots of nat­u­ral light in here?” says Stephanie Ho­sein, who led the de­sign process. “It’s more of a process of sub­trac­tion, with, ob­vi­ously, a new struc­ture to make sure we could keep the walls up. As soon as the sky­lights went in, it be­came such a bright space.”

Si­machke­vitch hopes that the new space – which, at 54 seats, boasts al­most 50 per cent more space than the orig­i­nal – will help add a sense of seren­ity to the co­zi­ness of the old Lady Mar­malade.

“Some­times that space on week­ends could get very hec­tic and in­tense,” she says. “I think this will pro­vide peo­ple with more of a leisurely brunch ex­pe­ri­ence. You’ll still be able to get in and out as quickly as you want, but if you want to just get a latte and chill, you can.”

The cof­fee (and the vin­tage Corn­ingWare mugs it’s served in) is just as you re­mem­ber it, as is the ma­jor­ity of the menu.

“We change the menu ev­ery cou­ple of months any­way. We’ll up­date it, we have spe­cials. But you’ll still be able to get your old favourites,” says Si­machke­vitch, who per­son­ally guar­an­tees that the cheesy waf­fles will not be go­ing any­where.

The usual all-day brunch sched­ule will re­main, and though Cherry and Si­machke­vitch have no im­me­di­ate plans to ex­tend Lady Mar­malade’s hours into the evening, they do plan to rent the space out for par­ties and events. Ap­par­ently, all that warm birch just glows at sun­down.

Lady Mar­malade’s mi­gas (above) and bread pud­ding (right) will be re­turn­ing to the Lady Mar­malade menu.

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