It’s been a good year for Claudio Aprile: his food is on the cover of Art Culinaire; he’ll soon be collaborating with Chicago’s celebrated Curtis Duffy for a special preview of the latter’s new restaurant Grace at Colborne Lane at the end of July; and, just as he predicted back in 2010, Aprile is expanding his restaurant group Orderfire, reaching as far as Pearson airport. Aprile’s latest venture: Origin Liberty Village, which quietly opened two weeks ago in the northeast corner of the Liberty Market Building which used to house Liberty Noodle.
Aprile and designer Jason Stroud (Stroudfoot) point to the building’s Second World War-era use as a female-run Bren gun factory as the inspiration for the restaurant’s design, from a large tribute mural to throw pillows with archived factory images scattered in the lounge area near the bar to industrial-looking numbers stamped on the concrete pillars around the central bar. The 6,400-square-foot space is broken through with splashes of fuchsia, as at the King East location. Besides the tables, Stroudfoot also custom-made the eye-catching chandelier—a mobile composed of red Bren gun replicas—that hangs above the central bar. Also echoing the original location are warm reclaimed elements like a chunky wooden bar top and stunning flooring made up of elm, maple and walnut woods; however, this space improves upon the original Origin’s design, particularly in the kitchen, where hot and cold stations are divided. For exhibitionist diners, there is the Bren Room, an elevated and transparent semi-private dining area that seats up to 12 on the main level, and visually links the inside dining room with the 50-seat patio. We’re told that by next summer, the patio will expand to 200 seats, and will even include a take-out kiosk.
Staffed entirely by Colborne Lane and Origin alumni, the front of house is managed by Nicola Somerville and Tyler Power, while the kitchen is, coincidentally but appropriately, led by an all-female team: Christine Mast (chef de cuisine) and Jane MacDonald (sous chef). Although it carries over a variety of items found at King East, this menu showcases more Latin American influences with dishes like chicken in black mole ($15) and a tostada bar (a nod to Aprile’s heritage and training) instead of a mozzarella bar. Other dishes include poached heirloom tomatoes with arugula and mozzarella ($16), smoked ribs with coleslaw ($19), ocean tout paired with candied lemon and fennel ($15) and pastry chef Christine Fancy’s (ex-Gabardine) pretzel with pickled mustard seeds ($4). Beverage manager John MacDonald’s changing drink list includes a short wine card, a few draught beers ($7–8), the Estrella Damm tall can ($6.50) and novel cocktails like For Ronnie ($13), a rye and apple-infused vermouth cocktail inspired by Veronica Foster, an employee of the John Inglis Company better known as the “Bren Gun Girl,” who was featured on propaganda posters produced during the Second World War. Oh, and perhaps most importantly for Liberty Village–dwellers: brunch service starts in August.