CASA LA PALMA MOVES IN uPStAIrS
Craig Harding’s popular Dundas West spot gets a swank second storey complete with rooftop patio
Casa La Palma ( 849 Dundas West, at Euclid) is the brand- new second- floor restaurant and bar above La Palma. The name means “house,” which chef Craig Harding and designer Alexandra Hutchison take to a logical extension with a swank, loungey interior featuring modular sofas, an intimate dining room and artful- yet- snacky small plates.
“We wanted it to feel a bit residential,” says Hutchison, adding she and
the rest of the team were inspired by the coziness and communality of spaces like Soho House. “We wanted to create a space where people felt like they belonged.”
The plan, according to Hutchison and exec chef Julian D’Ippolito, was always to extend La Palma to the second floor; back when the spot opened last summer, they were already teasing what will, this spring, become Dundas West’s only rooftop patio.
What they weren’t necessarily
counting on was La Palma’s runaway success – or the instant demand for event bookings. “Before we even opened downstairs, there were emails coming through,” D’Ippolito recalls. “We were like — what are we getting ourselves into?”
That clashed with their desire to keep La Palma as a casual neighbourhood joint: “It’s a big decision to close down when people are relying on you to be open on a Tuesday night when they feel like spaghetti,” Hutchison says.
So Hutchison designed Casa with those parties in mind, creating distinct spaces within the white- oakswathed room. At the centre, there’s a “living room” with a fire feature and low- slung couches done up in a dark floral print. Toward the back, there’s a private dining area, sectioned off with
massive custom- made doors that can accommodate parties or even overflow dining from La Palma. The bar, meanwhile, is lined with mod lamps ( designed with local lighting firm Anony) that diners can huddle around for an intimate glow. Even the patio is set to feature a mini private dining room, which could double as a raw bar or DJ booth.
At first, the plan was for Casa to double up on La Palma’s menu – but that quickly proved, D’Ippolito said, to be a logistical nightmare. Instead, Casa has its own kitchen, which serves a light, largely pescatarian menu made up largely of new items. Some of the best- received dishes so far, D’Ippolito adds, have been the vegan and vegetarian items, including deep- fried delicata squash rings and pea falafel bites. There are no big mains and many dishes don’t even need silverware – perfect for casual snacking on the sofas.
So far, diners seem to be going with that lived- in, residential feeling. Hutchison said she was thrilled when a friend’s five- year- old took one look at the couches, immediately kicked off her shoes and did a bellyflop.
“We want people to really enjoy it as a hospitality space, in the way they would enjoy entertaining at home,” Hutchison says – even if that means putting your feet up or accidentally knocking over your wine. “There are so many great restaurants in this city, and so many beautiful rooms. We thought this strip could use something loungey and homey, and something our guests could put their own kind of mark on.”
Casa La Palma’s beef tartare ( clockwise from top), pea falafel, lobster rolls, tempura squash, swordfish carpaccio and ( centre) roasted celeriac.