Best New Design 2013


Silver: The Fish Shack | Bronze: Tacofino Commissary

The dusty brick walls and creaking beams of Gastown have bolstered that district’s dining scene for some time-room after room drips with “instant vintage.” But then came woody, wonderful Wildebeest (Gold)-a handsome new player to end that game. Every element in this 19th-century space comes with a bona fide story; the result is a deeply satisfying place to sup, pulled together by owner/operators James Iranzad and Josh Pape. Naked Edison bulbs dangle through a pulley system recovered from the defunct Pantages Theatre, an abandoned elevator door is repurposed as a massive wine rack, and first steps traipse across patiently preserved tile work. “The amount of genuine thoughtfulness that informed every detail was deeply impressive,” noted one judge. We were happy to find delicate notes like the marbled line drawings on the coasters and lavender matchstick heads.

The Fish Shack (Silver) could have been predictably pulled together (with its captive Granville Street crowd), but instead the Glowbal Group delivered a fresh spin on an old-school seafood joint. Full-size wooden pallets tile the double-height walls (and the roof, too, in its loft); chalk drawings of fish on offer make for practical decoration. A happy bell gets clanged whenever the bartender feels so inclined. “This design takes liberty with enormous scale,” said one judge, “but it retains an intimate character. It seems to say, Come, eat, party.”

Tacofino Commissary (Bronze) is a bold experiment for such a tiny room. You might not notice its camouflaged entrance, but peek in and you’ll be smiling at a showstopping Omer Arbel light installation-the ceiling webbed over with copper tubing, floating terrariums, orbs of light. A charming encounter.