As it often is, the principal challenge was how to work with the existing space. We stripped everything back. Deliberately raw and industrial. That’s the arresting setting we were able to create. The final materiality supports this aesthetic. It’s weighted with heavy, dark-stained wood, rusted metal, and concrete.
We have worked with Chef Matthew on his home and personal kitchen. It was an honour when he asked us to help create his first restaurant.
The space would have to act as a second home for him. It’s a lesson everyone could learn from. A space you work in must feel comfortable and aligned with who you are in order to do your best work. And to be free to explore his culinary craft, he knew the setting must embody his views on the entire dining experience.
From Nightclub to Restaurant
Balanced against the heavy materials, touches of eclectic whimsy stand out. Graffiti art, neon signage, a pinball machine - even ceiling art in the washrooms are stalwart juxtapositions.
This table and its attached benches were once used in a high school cafeteria.
"Everything we sourced for the restaurant has a story."
Design Insight - The Bar
The bar itself is anything but typical. Its serpentine shape and two-sided seating flies in the face of the conventional idea of separating staff and patrons. Guests can sit alongside the person mixing cocktails rather than in front.
An inclusive vibe arises naturally. Best yet, it creates interesting seating configurations. Sit across from each other. Or across from strangers! It’s a place to meet, and engage, after all.
The subtle, rusted steel sign for El Camino hangs over the exterior space. It hints at the atmosphere without. And it marks the restaurant as an Elgin Street destination alone.
Design Insight - Open Kitchen
The kitchen is in full public view and on display to guests and street traffic. In exposing the kitchen, the art of food, its creation and preparation, is celebrated.
The take-out taco window extends the restaurant to the street, including itself in the life of the strip. It’s a fun way to serve Matt’s incredible food to more appreciative mouths, too. And to call it El Camino and not have street connection would be a bit wrong, wouldn’t it?