Clay Takes Shape

Inspired seasonal dishes unveiled at Gardiner Museum's design-forward space

May 29, 2019

We’ve been fortunate to work with the Gardiner Museum for many years. The weddings and events we’ve produced in their gorgeous space have been a joy to cater, while their contributions to Toronto’s cultural landscape have always meant a lot to us. So when the opportunity arose for us to collaborate on an original restaurant project within the Gardiner’s hallowed walls, we jumped at it enthusiastically. Now fully constructed and open for elegant lunches Sunday through Friday in its breezy, breathtaking atmosphere, Clay has officially taken shape.

By forming the Clay menu with seasonal changes in mind, Chef Bianca Azupardo brings simplicity and warmth to the restaurant’s offerings. A renewed focus on Vegetarian-friendly options is reflected in the condensed card, which highlights locally sourced ingredients in creative, easy-to-appreciate recipes.

“I like to know what I’m eating and I think that translates to this menu,” Chef Azupardo says of her stripped-down philosophy. “Nowadays, I think menus can be a little too confusing for people. I wanted to scale back to classic, comprehensible food, and I’ve been given the freedom to pursue that at Clay.”

Since launching the reimagined restaurant space last year, we have empowered Chef Azupardo to put her culinary stamp on Clay’s cuisine. Guided by Project Chef Sean Usher’s skillful menu development input, and building on her rapid ascent in Toronto’s culinary community, Chef Azupardo has distinguished herself as the perfect originator of a fresh lunch menu with a Food Dudes twist. And as for the setting in which these splendid dining experiences take place, Clay‘s is second to none.

Mirroring the ceramic focus of the Gardiner’s collection while paying respect to the building’s architectural features, the interior design of Clay was the first step in producing a relevant restaurant space. We tapped Dyonne Fashina of Denizens of Design for this critical work, with the aim of attracting a new demographic of patrons and maintaining existing clientele. By emphasizing a high design aesthetic and fitting modular furniture for Clay’s conversion to an event venue, the design team tied it all together exquisitely.

Material clay itself is at the root of every detail, from the food and plating to the restaurant’s branding and distinctive character. The process of clay making, the artifacts typically found in a ceramist’s studio, the mineral colour palette and the substance of the porcelain bar, all contribute to a complete and meaningful identity.

“We live in an era where everything is about what is buzz-worthy and Instagrammable,” explains Fashina. “Our goal was not to focus on any of that, but to allow the space itself to reveal a design direction through research and thoughtful analysis. We are most proud that the outcome is honest and that working this way has created beautiful results for Clay.“

Guests can expect beauty to be a constant of Clay’s environment, with the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows providing stunning views of Queen’s Park. Bathed in welcoming natural light and laid out for a comfortable dining experience, the space offers a worthy accompaniment to a day at the museum.

Special Exhibitions from Ai Weiwei and Nurielle Stern highlight the Gardiner’s spring lineup, with Clay now open Sunday through Friday, 10am to 3pm. Lunch service begins daily at 11am, preceded by pastries and coffee available from 10am to 11am.