a French fine-dining destination in downtown Toronto inspired by restaurateur’s grandmother

Lucie, Toronto, Canada

Lucie, a new fine-dining French restaurant in the heart of downtown Toronto, invites visitors to indulge in a world of moody sophistication and modern French cuisine. The 70-seat restaurant is an homage to owner and seasoned restaurateur Yannick Bigourdan’s grandmother, Lucie, and their shared love of cooking.

The 4,000 sq ft. interior is inspired by Bigourdan’s memories of his grandmother, her childhood in the French countryside, and the country’s unique cultural history, with emphasis on its classic pop music and period film stars. While the restaurant engages with nostalgia, Lucie is designed to a function as an appropriately intimate setting for executive chef Arnaud Bloquel’s modern French cooking.

CHIL’s design team turned to Serge Gainsbourg, the French musical and cultural icon, as a narrative touchpoint throughout the restaurant’s design. Lucie strives to capture the mood of the 1962 evening that Gainsbourg and Juliette Greco penned the song “La Javanaise” at 33 Rue de Verneuil in Paris.

Housed inside the ground-level of Scotia Plaza in Toronto’s Financial District, Lucie exposes its industrial structure, which includes concrete columns and similar elements. Creating a rich, warm, and intimate interior atmosphere in such a setting emerged as central design challenge for CHIL, addressed in large part through Lucie’s material and colour palette. Deep burgundy and royal blue tones feature heavily across walls, tables, and seating. Heavy velvet drapes offer a tactile contrast to the concrete, while also serving to absorb sound and reduce ambient noise.

To reduce waste and expedite construction, CHIL opted to preserve existing elements of the space, like the marble bar and maple wood flooring. Instead of removing and replacing the latter, which had been damaged over the years, CHIL celebrated the beauty and character inherent to minor imperfections by mending portions of the flooring with accent tile patches. This approach, akin to the Japanese concept of “wabi-sabi”, enabled the delivery of the design in within a constrained timeline.

The recurring use of brass further establishes a sense of warmth and understated luxury throughout Lucie. An arcade of brass globe lighting fixtures hovers above the 20-seat marble bar, creating a cocooning alleyway. Additional brass pendant lights hang above the bar’s opposite side and dining room, while brass sconces sit affixed to walls. Bigourdan even designed his own teak-and-brass-inspired rolling champagne cart, which offers table-side champagne service to guests.

References to Gainsbourg and other period cultural figures dot Lucie’s interior, adding visual interest for diners while serving as playful and nuanced nods to the restaurant’s inspirations and Bigourdan’s memories of his grandmother. Such references are both direct and abstract, ranging from iconic song lyrics penned across walls to a bold biophilic wallcovering of juniper berries that references Gainsbourg’s favourite spirit, gin. A portrait of Gainsbourg, sourced from Bigourdan’s own private art collection, occupies a wall near the restaurant’s entrance. Elsewhere, a hanging chain link installation depicts a pair of characters from 1970 French film, Borsalino.

Both the biophilic wallcovering and chair backs, which are covered in a floral-like pattern, serve to reference Lucie’s life in the South of France’s countryside. Lucie’s house, which overlooked wildflower fields and was often filled with the aromas of home-cooked meals and freshly poured “vin sucre”, was where she often cooked Yannick lunch and dinners when he was a child.