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Thor Espresso Bar Has That Nordic “Wow” Factor

Phaedrus Studio create a faceted coffee shop that will gratify design and espresso lovers alike

By Bert Archer
Photography by Ryan Fung

It’s not every day you walk into a cafe and your first impression is, “Wow, look at that millwork!” But the 65-square-metre Thor Espresso Bar on John Street, just north of Queen, is not an everyday cafe. Toronto’s become a coffee city, and with roasters like Stereo and baristas like Bruce Ly (Voodoo Child, Neo Coffee Bar) and Raichel Neufeld (Pilot Coffee Roasters), there are good cups to be had, but not a lot of good design – pleasant, sometimes, but coffee spaces rarely rise to the level of fascinating.

We believe Thor’s metallic crystal, jutting out from an exposed brick wall with its menu projected above a Deep Nocturne Corian bartop will get other coffee shop proprietors thinking. In 2015, Patrick Tu and Tom Junek, owners of the first Thor near the base of Bathurst, were talking with regular customer and principal at Phaedrus design studio David Grant-Rubash about opening another cafe. Junek’s favourite bottled water at the time was Icelandic Glacial, with its jagged, crystalline top; according to Junek, they all thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to have facets like this?”

The first iteration was Odin on King Street East, which opened in 2016. Expressed in wood and ivory-coloured Corian, it looks like a skeleton being slowly fleshed in. Thor goes further, forging its Nordic homage from a combination of brushed, polished and mirrored aluminum. Sebastian and Christoph Paus of Paus Inc. are clearly woodworkers to watch. All that beautiful millwork is accented with black Faz side chairs by Vondom and a contrasting Douglas Chunk wood pedestal table from Stylegarage. And the coffee at Thor (made with their Modbar machine) is just a good excuse to hang out in a great space.

Originally published in our Small Spaces 2019 issue as Thor Espresso Bar

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