- Lenny Mullins
This is the fourth renovation since Chives (1537 Barrington Street) opened 16 years ago—in the last renovation they built new bathrooms and tiled the entry to the kitchen, so working with Staged for Upsell were able to focus on the dining room this time. Craig Flinn says they had five focuses: "The first was to get rid of the mismatched art and do a mirror wall," he says. He felt the lime green and chalkboard art had run its course, and a wall of mirrors was an element he had actually wanted since he originally opened the restaurant. "The second was a new colour scheme, so we painted all the walls. The third was new upholstery on the banquettes and chairs. Fourth was new tables. And fifth were the new lights. In the end we always end up adding on more than we intended so we added on a new host station and a new bar top."
1. Travelling in the UK and Italy over the past few years, Flinn was re-inspired by a pub and trattoria that had mirrored walls, re-igniting his old inspiration. "I kind of became fixated on that and I started to go around to antique stores and collect them," he says. He collected 47 and hand-painted them himself. "I liked that feeling of doing something tangible for the reno," he says, "And not just handing it all off. I'm proud of that." The mirrors bring sparkle and shimmer to the room, the gold adding warmth. "So once you get the candles lit on the table, guests come into a warm dining room."
2. Comfort was important in this renovation. A plush velvety banquette runs around the room giving the space a homey vibe, but the tables are far enough apart to give diners privacy. The four-tops in the middle of the room alternate direction, so you're never bumping chair backs or invading space. New menu design that will see 20 to 40 percent of the menu changing every two weeks will allow the two chefs de cuisine, Scott Tannahill and Jameson Braun, to show off their creativity with local ingredients more than ever. "You have to capitalize on the growing seasons not the calendar seasons and every two weeks there's a major shift that introduces something new," says Flinn.
3. While Flinn has upped the glamour of the dining room, he doesn't want the perception to be that Chives is an expensive restaurant. "You can go into Swiss Chalet or East Side Mario's and spend $27 on a chicken and ribs plate. Most of our entrees are cheaper than that," he says. "But the reality is that people come to Chives with the idea that this is going to be a nice night out, a nice meal, and we want to give them that ambiance to match it. And I think the look matches the dining experience you get here. It's opulent, but it's cozy."