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Terracotta and Tapas Heat Up Madrina Restaurant

At Madrina, a Toronto tapas restaurant in the city’s tourist-y Distillery District, authentic materials in warm tones, like amber, cinnamon and terracotta, enliven a century-old space

By Elizabeth Pagliacolo

Madrina is Spanish for “godmother,” and the recently opened restaurant by that name in Toronto’s Distillery District evokes the maternal figure in both its Iberian tapas menu and its warm interior.

Designed by Studio Munge, Madrina immediately sets a scene with its 37-foot bar. Outlined in layered mahogany arches and fronted with handmade fluted terracotta tiles, this is the restaurant’s undeniable centrepiece.

According to the firm, the restaurant’s setting inside a century-old grain mill, one of the District’s many preserved Victorian-era buildings, presented its own challenges and opportunities. “The preexisting structure – narrow, intimate and supported by century-old stone walls – created a soulful backdrop. The design would have to rely on innovative elements to energize the interior surfaces. Standard wall coverings and expected painted palettes would not suffice,” the firm explains.

Rather, the millwork (completed by Canara Woodworking) makes its own opulent statement. Backlit and fitted with metal shelves that connect the archway, the mahogany framework also is also a showcase for a series of commissioned handcrafted ceramics by Eny Lee Parker. Her pottery is complemented by the suspended ceiling fixtures and their terracotta chains.

The firm also collaborated with artist Mattea Perrotta, whose paintings adorn a wall-affixed shelving system anchored by slender wooden dowels that doubles as a wine display. And it also embedded a sense of craft directly into the tiled tabletops and lushly upholstered seating.


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