The Roosevelt Room might be the most punk-rock thing to come to Toronto in ages. If punk is about open defiance, well, what could be more in-your-face than opening an immensely swanky supper club during a global recession?
At least, that seems to be the general consensus. But actually, the Roosevelt Room takes more flack for its nod to decadence than it deserves. Sure, its 120-seat dining capacity and 550-person dancing capacity means it has sprawl. And yes, there are $35 cocktails as well as a burger that tips the scales at $28.95 (and boasts two kinds of beef - if that's not the definition of decadence, I don't know what is). But, to be fair, with entrees in the range of $20-$40, the Roosevelt Room falls in the normal range of most upscale restaurants and is at least a whole decimal point away from the legendary prices at the erstwhile Bymark .
It's also remarkably, incredibly beautiful, with dramatic stripes of gold on a polished black background; vaulted, angular arches; and sweeping gold figurines, all harkening back to the Art Deco styles of the 1920s and 30s. TV's The Designer Guys are the brains behind this operation; their firm The Design Agency brought the club's retro theme to life, and added modern touches like hydraulic lifts that lower the dinner tables, transforming them into bottle service booths when the club opens for dancing at 10:30pm.
After work, you'll find Bay Street wheelers and dealers at the club's bar, wearing suits and unwinding with cocktails. Later on, more well-heeled patrons make their way into the dining room to chow down on the French-influenced cuisine that was modelled on the first Academy Awards dinner menu from 1929, and includes swanky dishes like lobster thermidor and coq-au-vin (both $35). After 10:30pm, diners are politely encouraged to leave so swished-up clubbers willing to drop $20 on cover charge can get down to Top 40 hits and house music. The club also hosts cabaret girls and other entertainment acts.
Even the staff are gussied up to keep with the theme, with pretty bartenders dressed in flashy flapper outfits, and an efficient-looking concierge manning the front desk, ready to order you a taxi or send you home with some Tylenol and chewing gum.
If you really wanted to go punk and splash out, bottle service is the way to look like a high-roller here. With a minimum of two to four bottles, (depending on your poison), up to sixteen people in your party can recline in luxury in a bottle service booth. Cocktails can get expensive, too, but with mixologist Frankie Solarik behind the drinks menu, you can rest assured that they're worth it. The club's website also adds that personal security can be added for an additional fee, which, if you ask me, is just a marketing ploy. Personal security! That's even fancier than two kinds of beef in one $30 burger.
Roosevelt Room is really worth checking out, even if the thought of braving the club district gives you the chills. The stunning space is located at a relatively quiet end of the neighbourhood, at Adelaide and Peter, and has an unassuming - perhaps even purposefully unwelcoming - exterior of black walls and blocked windows. Only the red carpet and the doorman standing in front of the double-Rs gives it away. Inside, it's the most luxurious 1929 you could ever imagine, and a dream world that's worth seeing - at least for one retro cocktail, if lobster thermidor isn't quite in the budget.
Writing by Jessica McGann