Introducing our Postcards series, created in collaboration with Cereal magazine. We invite you to discover a city close to our hearts and explore its personality through a gallery of postcards, with words by Cereal’s editor Rosa Park.
Toronto is flourishing. While many big cities have seen their constructional and cultural development curtailed by the ravages of the economic downturn, there is a sprightly energy to Canada’s largest city. A recent building boom has flooded its downtown with high-rise condominiums. Toronto now has more skyscrapers than any other in the western hemisphere, and twice as many as New York. Many see Toronto as up and coming, but for us, it has already arrived.
An Architectural Tour
As part of Toronto’s constructional boom, a number of the city’s notable culture centres have enjoyed innovative transformations in recent years. In contrast to the 1960s and 70s, when prominent pieces of architectural heritage like the Board of Trade Building were lost to the development of parking lots and superhighways, the last two decades have seen city planners display an energetic refocusing on the value of design. The Art Gallery of Ontario epitomises the rejuvenated spirit of Toronto’s architectural scene. Redesigned by Frank Gehry in 2008 (the first project the architect has taken on in his home city), the gallery holds around 80,000 seminal works from a diverse range of artists, and with its many rooms, atriums and Douglas fir staircases, represents an impressive melding of contemporary and modern.
This austere, impenetrable atrium juts like a supernatural wing from the front of the building, casting simultaneous gashes of light and shadow across the street below.
In a similar fashion, Daniel Libeskind’s extension to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) erupts out of the southwest corner of Bloor Street in a cascade of aluminum and glass shards, synergistically paying homage to the ROM’s gem and mineral collection and representing an appreciation for the original building and its collections. This austere, impenetrable atrium juts like a supernatural wing from the front of the building, casting simultaneous gashes of light and shadow across the street below.
A visit to the ROM should also include calling on the Gardiner Museum, which sits across the street, in a measured layering of sandstone blocks and black marble columns. Founded by George R Gardiner and his wife Helen in the early 1980s, the museum accommodates one of the largest ceramics collections in the world as well as a symmetrical, butter-hued interior, presenting a soothing paradox to the savagery of Libeskind’s design only a few hundred yards away.
Nestled on the outskirts of Kensington Market – where pastel-terraced streets are home to multitudes of gastronomic and cultural marriages – Café Pamenar is our pick for enjoying a dark, rich espresso. Despite the inundation of coffee dens in the area, Pamenar’s stripped back aesthetic and somnambular back patio shaded by overhanging branches is the ideal setting to sip owner Pouria Lotfi’s meticulous brews. A Saturday morning can easily be whittled away with a book and a pastry at this peaceful café.
Pamenar’s stripped back aesthetic and somnambular back patio shaded by overhanging branches is the ideal setting to sip owner Pouria Lotfi’s meticulous brews.
Dundas Street West
Running like an artery through the city centre to its western suburbs, Dundas Street West houses many of Toronto’s most intriguing boutiques. An afternoon’s stroll along this snaking boulevard will most likely leave you empty pocketed, clutching fair trade shopping bags filled with minimal Japanese stationery, vintage jumpres, and first edition poetry anthologies. The books in question will come from Monkey’s Paw, an antiquarian store specialising in uncommon texts and paper artifacts. Situated off Ossington Avenue, the place is a literature fiend’s utopia, particularly since it owns the world’s only Biblio-Mat: a randomising vending machine for old books, which could leave you with a 1940s baseball manual or a beautiful edition of Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night.
An afternoon’s stroll along this snaking boulevard will most likely leave you empty pocketed, clutching fair trade shopping bags filled with minimal Japanese stationery and first edition poetry anthologies.
In the Junction area of the street, you’ll find another one of Dundas’s micro paradises: Mjölk. Both a gallery and a lifestyle store, Mjölk merchandises its unique offering of Japanese and Scandinavian furniture and smaller homewares like New York’s Museum of Modern Art would curate a new exhibition. Hours can happily be lost inspecting ornate spoons and cherry blossom salad bowls, as well as quietly reclining in one of their many lounge chairs. Founded in 2009 by husband-and-wife team John and Juli Baker, every inch of the space espouses their passion for pure, honest functionality.
Last year, an astounding 1,308 restaurants opened in Toronto, more than triple the number opened in 2011 and 2010. The ethnic diversity of the city’s population has coincided with this welcome boom to create a wonderfully varied culinary landscape. Whether you are tucking into fresh zingy tacos at Grand Electric or enjoying 3-day short ribs at the Drake Hotel, there is an endless line of pioneering, experimental eateries to try.
Melded dishes including bulgogi cheesesteak and crispy fried chicken wings dipped in Korean hot sauce complemented by kimchi fried rice and old school hip hop.
Our favourite is Oddseoul – Leeto and Leemo Han’s Korean Philadelphian fusion diner at the bottom of laid back Ossington Avenue, a place that exemplifies the city’s gastronomic renaissance. Here, a softly lit bar offers up a range of tantalising, melded dishes including bulgogi cheesesteak and crispy fried chicken wings dipped in Korean hot sauce complemented by kimchi fried rice and old school hip hop. Described by Chuck Ortiz, editor of food culture magazine Acquired Taste, as ‘the place where the chefs go to eat’, this is where you should unwind after a long day of exploring.