The new Victoria's restaurant in the historic Model Milk building opens to the public on August 25. See above and below for more.
Victoria's is shaping up to be regal downtown presence
Friday, August 18, 2006
One of this city's most passionate designers is directing renovations that will see yet another of his restaurant creations open by the end of this month.
Witold Twardowski's talents can be seen in the recently renovated Timberline Inn and the new Bison Bistro in Banff. He also just opened, as part owner, the Reader's Garden Cafe in the Reader Rock Garden.
Those projects must have sapped a lot of energy, but when Larry Ryder, owner of the Model Dairy Building on the corner of 17th Avenue and 2nd Street S.W., called and asked what could be done with the former restaurant and nightclub space, Twardowski couldn't resist the challenge.
Many of us can still remember it as a great place for an ice cream cone, but for more than 25 years the building has housed a restaurant. Victoria's Restaurant has been closed since January, as have the adjoining club spaces.
There was a thought to change the name, but Twardowski says it is located in Victoria Crossing and the Queen was quite an interesting gal. And on my tour among painters and plumbers I noticed a pile of Victoriana that it would be a shame to not use.
But the new style will be very different. It is meant to appeal to the corporate crowd with a touch of Bohemia.
I was amazed at the size of the building and the maze of spaces within. The restaurant-bistro where I found at least five alcoves will have an entrance from 2nd Street while two other separate entrances along 17th Avenue take you into a bakery and a huge bar, both with outside patio areas. Twardowski has scored a home run with the hiring of Lisa Cheah to run his bakery; she formerly ran Charlie's Bakery in Kensington and has a great reputation within the industry.
The bar has been opened up to allow more light and will seat between 80 and 100 in nice antique style furniture around marble tables.
Another smaller bar at the back with space for another 30 -- probably smokers -- will keep the diesel and oil deco .
I admit to not having been in Victoria's for many a year and had no idea of the size of the area behind the restaurant. Twardowski is turning this amazing space that has several levels and high skylights into a ballroom. And then up the curved, metal railing staircase I discovered the second floor along the whole length of the building.
This will become a classy event room that has already been booked for a number of corporate functions.
All of the equipment in the central kitchen and in-house bakery is new, and new flooring and furniture has required a fairly large investment.
As design partner, Twardowski has done a remarkable job in reinterpreting the former spaces into one unit. John Landry is the operating partner and Andrea Unger is general manager.
Victoria's Bistro and Lounge should attract a more mature crowd to 17th Avenue; it's a ways east of the Red Mile and will benefit from more accessible parking. It's good to see such a fine old building put to good use -- be sure to notice the sculptured milk bottles above the second floor windows, reminders of its original purpose...