El Camino’s success led Chef Matthew Carmichael to ask Linebox to design his second Elgin Street restaurant — Datsun, right next door! His creative energy, inside and outside of the kitchen, is infectious and inspiring. To say we were excited to work with him again is an understatement.

The challenge for the design team was to create a restaurant experience with a similar DNA El Camino, yet with its own distinctive qualities. Where El Camino is dark, raw, and industrial, Datsun’s approachable mood is light, fresh and polished.

Design Insight

In its past life, the space was a nightclub. Like El Camino, we gutted it stripped back to its structural elements. Sandblasting the concrete walls and columns revealed their underlying beauty. A web of mechanical systems and a stock of stainless steel equipment were laid out for a state of the art kitchen.

Light and Pure

Light and Pure

Modern white walls and aged concrete are complemented by welcoming layers of light birch wood, antique furniture painted in primary colours, and textural contemporary art pieces.

Take-out Experience

Take-out Experience

At the take-out window, patrons can peer in at the kitchen bustle as they await their order.

Demystifying and uncovering the creation, consumption, and festivity of food was central to the overall design of Datsun, just as it was with El Camino. A long wrapping bar and custom tables accommodate a variety of seating arrangements, and foster interactions between bartenders and guests. There are even moments where the bartender and guest exchange places – where you can dine essentially behind the bar.

Plant life plays against original artwork and sculptures, bridging transitions from exterior to interior.

Coming to Life

The minimalist space is designed to truly come alive only once diners, chefs, staff and food are ensconced and interacting with it. A simple, unfussy environment permits the tastes, smells, colours, and the subtleties of the characters within to put their stamp on the experience.

Project Fun Facts

The length of years Datsun spent without a sign. Initially, only their tiger logo emblazoned the window.
Number of seats placed in the kitchen pass that get a full view of the chefs and crew in action.
The moniker that the staff have dubbed the lighting over the communal table. It was designed and crafted by Castor Designs, Toronto.
Bulldog Pub
The nightclub that stood in the location before it was reconstructed as the restaurant we know and love.


Photographer: Union Eleven, Metropolis Studio