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AZ Awards Winner 2023: Prime Seafood Palace by Omar Gandhi Architects

Prime Seafood Palace is remarkable for its restraint. Applying only three materials — rich white maple, brass, and supple buff-toned leather — architect Omar Gandhi rendered the interior of the downtown Toronto restaurant with a warmth and intimacy more akin to a light-filled cathedral or cozy cabin in the woods. For Gandhi, it was an exercise in translating the refinement of the residential projects he’s known for to a commercial scale. For restaurateur Matty Matheson, it is exactly what he was looking for.

AZ Awards Winner 2023: Prime Seafood Palace by Omar Gandhi Architects

An East Coaster, Matheson grew up in Saint John, New Brunswick, and spent his childhood summers at his grandfather’s Blue Goose Restaurant on Prince Edward Island. Nostalgia for his formative years mixed with an admiration for Japanese and Scandinavian design influenced his ambition for Prime Seafood Palace to be a “timeless space, free of trends” and a showcase for the modest yet exceptional food head chef Coulson Armstrong serves up.

Beautiful. And 20 years from now, it will look even more beautiful.
Peter Mabeo, AZ Awards 2023 Juror

Gandhi is an Ontario native with East Coast roots himself, having earned his masters at the School of Architecture at Dalhousie University in Halifax (where he also has a second office and home). In response to Matheson’s brief, he inserted a two-storey wood-slat vault that filters natural light from two walls of glazing into the interior; screens of slender vertical brass bars heighten the effect while simultaneously obscuring views of and maintaining a subtle connection to the busy street outside. The burnished metal also clads the bar front and backsplash, frames the diner-style booths (which are upholstered in handsome ochre leather) and makes an appearance on the original pendants by Concord Custom Lighting that hover above them. Gandhi and his team commissioned local furniture-maker Coolican & Company to contribute the large booth tables (each with a cleverly concealed drawer for steak knives) and a special edition of the studio’s Edwin chair.

AZ Awards Winner 2023: Prime Seafood Palace by Omar Gandhi Architects

Oak flooring runs throughout the space, including to a special nook at the back — a cottage-like dining room appointed with whitewashed pine walls, two four-seater tables and a wood-burning stove; this alcove is open to the kitchen, allowing guests a front-row view of the action. Not to be overlooked, the restaurant’s double-height accessible bathroom is lined in bamboo-textured Bianco Carrara tile and is naturally illuminated by a skylight high above. A custom concrete sink by craftsman Brandon Gore features a carved bathymetric map of Lake Erie, the area of Ontario where Matheson has a farm that provides the restaurant’s produce.

Gandhi and his team worked closely with Matheson and his to create this exceptional space, one that delights all the senses and offers a small memory-steeped refuge within the city.

Team Omar Gandhi and Stephanie Hosein with Jeff Walker, John Gray Thomson, Chad Jamieson, Lauren McCrimmon and Kristi MacDonald (OGA); Mary Ma; Emanuel Diomis (Diomis Engineering); and Abhi Bhogal (Spline Group)

Winner: Commercial and Institutional
Prime Seafood Palace

Architect Omar Gandhi rendered the interior of the downtown Toronto restaurant with a warmth and intimacy more akin to a light-filled cathedral or cozy cabin in the woods.

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