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Vela, a ritzy, new restaurant on Portland Street

Sweeping architecture and twenties vibes meet seasonal New American cuisine and pop-culture inspired cocktails at downtown dining destination, Vela.

Vela: What’s the vibe?

Despite its food-centric location at Portland and King, Vela does not inherit the legacy of a former restaurant. Instead, the new eatery from industry veterans Amanda Bradley and Robin Goodfellow is housed inside a former architecture firm: a serendipitous touch given that the swanky space was designed by the award-winning Partisans studio.

In fact, the hotel lobby bar-inspired destination is so design-forward, you could be forgiven for thinking that there’s little substance behind all of those sumptuous curves. Luckily, for our taste buds, the ambient dining room backs up its moody air of mystery with a stellar menu from executive chef Jeffrey Lapointe (Soho House, Piano Piano) and a cocktail lineup of delicious classics and surprises.

Vela: What’s on the menu?

We can’t possibly know what you’ll be having (such is the joy of seasonality), but we can tell you that Lapointe’s dishes will be fresh, inspired and — where possible — local. We munched on Prosciutto di Parma with Ontario melon for starters, before moving on to Iberico pork with an Ontario peach salsa.

Vela’s New American cuisine runs the gamut of quintessential offerings like wedge salad, 24-ounce dry-aged ribeye and Cornish hen, to the more unexpected and vegan-friendly cashew torchon and artichoke cakes. No matter what you order, you’re guaranteed a memorable lunch in one of their cozy booths, a lights-out chef’s table experience or some celebratory drinks at the L-shaped champagne bar.

True, Vela’s bar looks intimidatingly cool. But with whimsical libations named after pop-culture icons like The Simpsons (Moe’s Tavern) and Pulp Fiction’s milkshake (Jack Rabbit Slims), you definitely can sit with us. Pull up a pew and select a tipple from the menu, handily divided into sections like Champagne Cocktails, featuring (you guessed it) fizzy fun; Vacation Drinks to help you teleport around the world; and Global Classic Cocktails for a retro sip.

Vela: What else?

Above the sea-foam leather banquettes, eyes are instantly drawn to the swirling lights on the ceiling, stretching out like a long exposure photograph of the city at night. The design doesn’t stop there, though — the sculptured 4,000-square-foot space was created with acoustics in mind and will host future musical performances.

We may not have had the best start to the 2020s, but a roaring good time awaits at this lush spot — and heaven knows, you deserve it. 

90 Portland St. W., (647) 480-6963, velatoronto.com

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