Jen Agg does more in a year than most do in a lifetime. She owns and operates the absolutely essential Black Hoof, Cocktail Bar, and Rhum Corner, all in Toronto. Last year she opened one of Montreal’s hottest (and best looking) new restaurants, Agrikol, in collaboration with actual rockstars Arcade Fire. She is writing a memoir (out this May) and fighting misogyny in the restaurant industry any way she can. Somehow, she has also found time to build a new restaurant and wine bar in Toronto: Tomorrow, she opens the doors to Grey Gardens.
For her latest, Agg partnered with chef Mitch Bates, who made a name for himself at two-Michelin-starred Momofuku Ko in New York City, and then as the chef of Momofuku’s Toronto tasting menu Shoto. “His food is always delicious,” Agg says of Bates. “He has an uncanny sense of restraint, plates are never overburdened, but it's not so serious that it needs to be contemplated, it's whimsical without being obscene.” While Bates has spent the last several years working on tasting menus, Grey Gardens will be casual, “the kind of place where you can pop in for snacks and copious amounts of wine,” Agg says.
“Hard to believe, but I think we'll be filling a real hole,” says Agg. “You basically have to go to Paris, New York City, or Montreal for vibrant wine bars with excellent food.” There are a few different experiences available to diners, whether sitting at the bar, at the communal table, or at two- and four-tops. Grey Gardens is tricked out with a large wine cellar (“that cost way less than it looks like it cost, seriously, I should just build people wine cellars,” says Agg), and offers private dining, too. “I'm really excited about finally being able to offer an experience that's as luxurious or as casual as you want it to be, and having both those things make sense in one space.”
While Agrikol earned its place on Eater’s list of the most beautiful openings of 2016 with vibrant art and punched-up colors, the look at Grey Gardens is lighter and airier, with a soft color palette and a vintage feel. “I wanted to have this mash-up of stark modernity (the brick walls, the furniture, and banquette) countered with an almost decaying decadence (aged brass accents, old marble, the faded mural), all capped with a connecting baseline (the polished brass and the attention to detail).” Agg’s goal was to create a space that is “comfortable and elegant, without tipping too far in either direction.”
“I opened the Hoof in my early 30s; it's still my firstborn and I love it so much,” says Agg. “Grey Gardens is just the logical progression from everything I've learned operating and opening restaurants in the past eight years.” It’s tempting to think of Grey Gardens as the Black Hoof, all grown up, but one look at the space shows that it’s very much its own entity, an ambitious project from one ambitious empire-builder.
Here, have a look around:
- Grey Gardens [Official]
- Reimagining Kitchen Culture With the Black Hoof’s Jen Agg [E]
- I Am a Restaurant Owner. Why Aren’t My Peers As Disgusted By Sexism As I Am? [E]
- All Toronto Coverage on Eater [E]