Housed in a heritage building which has been converted into a Saks Fifth Avenue, Leña Restaurante brings a breath of fresh air to the traditionally stuffy financial district. Named for executive chef Anthony Walsh’s mother-in-law Elena, the restaurant draws both its culinary inspiration and its spirit of hospitality and authenticity from Leña’s home country of Argentina.

The restaurant spans four floors, but the space was restricted by heritage building requirements – challenges that could have been obstacles to creating a cohesive design, but didn’t faze DesignAgency. Each space maintains its own distinct ambiance and elements that play off of each other. The aesthetic accents reflect both the ethos of the restaurant and its food: rich, warm, and full of character.

The lower level lounge, Bar Lala, is accessed by an Art-Deco staircase. The space plays with soft lighting and shadows on moody palette finishes, featuring leather and patterned flooring while floor-to-ceiling Argentinian blue velvet curtains draw the eye. The main bar area, housed in the former store lobby, is constructed around a heritage Art-Deco pillar, softly backlit with etched glass. Injecting more drama behind the bar, DesignAgency added a cascading light fixture of teardrop pendants. Above, a series of small private dining areas feature unique custom chandeliers and lightly kitsch elements, creating a melange of the old and the new to stand the test of time.

DesignAgency principal Matt Davis says, “The opportunity to reflect the character of a real person combined with the deco setting provided us with amazing material to work with. We were inspired to create interiors that reflect a life well-lived and that are as lively and genuine as these influences.”

In the lower dining area, an intimate alcove tucked in a corner pays homage to the restaurant’s namesake, where guests can get to know her by ‘eavesdropping’ on her chatter through a vintage rotary phone. The space is elegant and above all comfortable – so guests feel as though they’ve been welcomed into Leña’s private home for a meal.

Location 176 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M5C 2L7, Canada