Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Before I get back to what's going on in sunny, spring-time Barcelona, it would be remiss of me not to mention Toronto, where we stopped on our way back to Barcelona for random toboganning, extravagant dinners with friends and some very unpleasant dentist appointments. Don't worry, I still have all my own teeth.

This year, my favourite addition to the always changing Toronto scene was OddFellows (936 Queen St. W., 416-534-5244, reservations recommended for weekend evenings), for the unabashed fun of it. The brainchild of designers Kei Ng and Brian Richer, OddFellows blends eclectic, modern, campy and sometimes just plain weird design pieces with an atmosphere that's as down home as it gets: a wood burning stove, a long communal table, the clatter of dishes, the bumping of elbows and the buzz of conversation...well, it's actually more like a clamour to be heard over the throbbing music, but it's a minor niggle.

The food follows the homey elements of the space: bison meatloaf, pressure cooker lamb stew, a burger the size of a small child's head--all fantastic and all seasoned with a giant dose of family dinner hour nostalgia, right down to the creamed corn and partitioned plates.

Initially, I thought that there was a certain kind of pretension behind OddFellows' self conscious devil-may-care-ness and deliberately incongruous pairing of out-there design with the staples of home cooked comfort food. Certainly there's an eerie sense of displacement, a carefully constructed falseness of the kind you feel when you enter an artist's model of a house. Maybe it's just the reverb of putting an unfamiliar spin on the ultra familiar. Ultimately, it's just another element of the experience and the bottom line is that the experience, particularly in good company, is great. You should go.

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