Vibrant (and vegan) feel-good Mexican restaurant Rosalinda boasts a bright and airy interior, adding a burst of colour to Toronto’s urban core
In the heart of downtown Toronto’s Financial District, Rosalinda Restaurant has a personality artfully assembled to stand out against the hustle and bustle of city life.
The recently opened vegan Mexican hot-spot has gained recognition for its colourful and beautifully crafted tostadas, tacos, desserts and cocktails, as well as its nature-inspired interior. Surrounded by steakhouses and skyscrapers, it provides a refreshing escape, adding a casual and vegan-friendly alternative to the neighbourhood’s abundant upscale eateries.
Designed by Bent Gable Design – a local studio known for creating well-known Toronto restaurants, including Luckee for Susur Lee, The Thompson Hotel Diner, and Pizzeria Libretto’s Ossington Flagship for Oliver & Bonacini – Rosalinda adds another eye-catching space to the firm’s portfolio. For owners (and well-known Toronto restaurateurs) Jamie Cook, Max Rimaldi and Grant van Gameren, the restaurant fulfills a vision that was almost a decade in the making.
Rosalinda replaces a pair of starkly contrasting businesses that previously occupied the space: a high-end Japanese restaurant next to an outdated convenience store. Bent Gable Design pays subtle tribute to the restaurant’s former life through the elegant juxtaposition of luxe furnishings and rougher elements like exposed concrete and stacked cinderblocks. Hinting at Mexican Calavera tradition, a motif of “beauty and decay” is also reflected by the contrast of living greenery and skeletal elements, as well as vintage and contemporary elements.
“When we saw the empty, demolished space, stripped back to its bare elements, it was spectacular. The soaring ceilings and the expansiveness of the combined spaces inspired us,” say the Bent Gable designers.
Co-owner Jamie Cook explains, “We wanted Rosalinda to be vibrant and fun. The goal was to create a place for everyone without any of the stuffiness, a place where you forget you’re in a plant-based restaurant.”
Interested in so-called “Blue Zones” – the regions of the world with nine characteristics leading to longer, happier and healthier lives – Cook incorporated lifestyle ideas into his vision. “We had recently returned from a trip to California – and Loma Linda, California, is one of those Blue Zones. Toronto doesn’t always equal the best lifestyle,” he says. These principles of health, longevity and freshness are reflected in the menu, and were considered in the design process as a key ingredient in Rosalinda’s creation.
Immediately, a cheerful, airy and light-filled space sets the ambiance. The waiting area is home to peculiar yet artfully arranged vintage finds, including prominent hand-painted decorative skulls, as well as round display cases stuffed with red plastic roses and florist orbs, creeping with ivy and moss. It all combines to evoke the playful – but traditionally inspired – interplay of life and death, and beauty and decay.
Bursts of deep blue, mossy green velvet, and grey marble establish the colour palette, while orange industrial lighting and striped upholstery add a note of cheeriness.
For diners stepping inside, a sort of indoor patio awaits. The central area is framed by a greenhouse structure made of antique glass and steel that provides patrons the pleasure of indoor dining with an al fresco ambiance. “It’s almost like you could be outdoors,” say the designers.
Expansive vintage windows are another highlight of the space, bringing in ample light and – occasionally – the soft din of rainfall. On a damp afternoon, diners are put at ease by the quiet sound of rain, amplifying the relaxing, casual spirit of the restaurant.
Industrial piping and a mixture of real and artificial greenery hang from the ceiling and unify the space, while garden style furniture and white rattan stools connect the bar and lounge areas to the indoor patio. Potted plants frame the large windows, slightly blocking the views of passersby while further underlining a connection to the outdoors.
Hand-painted murals add a splash of colour to the concrete walls, with the “rose wall” being the focal point of the dining lounge. It’s an Instagram-worthy space, furnished with a communal table, for hosting large parties, including bachelorette events and even weddings. An antique chandelier floats above the vintage wooden table, and is complemented by contemporary rose velvet chairs and a lush paisley carpet.
Nestled in the concrete jungle, Rosalinda provides an urban escape by adding a fresh yet vintage feel to Toronto’s restaurant scene. Through a seamless blend of food, art and design, Rosalinda is an inviting space for everyone. It’s such a nice spot, you’ll want to spend time there even if you’re not vegan.