The smell of chocolate and the chill of summer storm clouds – these were two familiar sensations that overtook me on Saturday afternoon as I cycled home. I was close to my new favorite neighbourhood culinary hub The Drake Commissary (beside the Nestle chocolate factory on Sterling Road) – so I decided to stop in again for my third visit since it opened at the end of June. I’m never disappointed. This time, as I waited out the weather with a glass of wine, I wanted to think more about why I find what this interior so exciting.
Situated in a non-descript boxy red brick industrial building set back from the road, The Drake Commissary is the newest player in this rapidly changing lower Junction Triangle area adjacent to the West Toronto Railpath. Its ambitious business plan combines dining destination with culinary market space and industrial kitchen into a multi-faceted design project. Design lead +tongtong has provided a similarly dynamic and well-considered design response.
A double-door entrance at loading dock height opens into a roomy glazed vestibule that forces a bent-axis initial approach even as it permits a sweeping view of the single level floorplate. We can recognize the existing architectural shell: aged red brick walls have been exposed in some places but covered up in others; a regular grid of squared timber columns and beams support a ceiling of uniform height; a few large rectangular windows on the rear walls help illuminate the space.
Visitors are welcomed inside by a broad interior street that bisects the main public space into seating and serving areas. At a central junction marked by the bar, this corridor in wood is crossed by a companion dropped plywood ceiling that beckons toward the other side of the Commissary’s operation. Here we find self-serve larder fridges surrounded by overflow dining and lounging options, all in full view of an impressive, industrially-scaled working prep kitchen.
While these zones are established by architectural elements, the interior space at The Drake Commissary doesn’t rely on grand architectural gestures. Instead, it energetically engages all of its interior elements – putting them to work to craft zones of spatial occupation and bring this old industrial building to life.
I hope that you will join me over the next several days as I discuss The Drake Commissary’s key spatial zones and the design strategies that activate them.