Food has always been a crucial part of romance and restaurants like Toronto’s La Maquette prove that a perfect meal can be the most romantic detail of all.
La Maquette owner Ange Kanavas, 49, says it’s her mission to provide not only great food but an unforgettable dining experience as well.
“I always want my guests to have the ultimate experience. When you touch the five senses, you really touch someone’s soul. I want to reach out to people,” Kanavas said.
Opened in 1983 and taken over by Kanavas in 1993, La Maquette (111 King St. E) has long been one of Toronto’s best unkept secrets: Toronto diners voted it the city’s most romantic restaurant in 2007 and La Maquette frequently tops magazine surveys for quality of food, venue and service.
Though the restaurant has a distinctly French name (translation: “the model”) the food is geared towards healthy, delicious choices instead of classic heavy French sauces, with a broader turn towards Italian flavours as well. Think of it as French-lite, with butter replaced by olive oil and 90 per cent of the ingredients certified organic.
When she took over the restaurant in 1993, Kanavas had no idea what was in store and spent the early days walking out into the street to coax passersby into giving the restaurant a try.
“I invested my last $1000 in advertising and music and I gave myself three months to either make it or get out of the business completely,” she said.
Pulling off the right combination of food, ambiance and romance can be difficult and few restaurants manage to excel in everything the way La Maquette seems to so effortlessly, with a perfect mixture of candlelight, inspirational decor and beautiful food prepared to maximize the effect of subtle aromas.
Kanavas says her secret to achieving romantic perfection at La Maquette is energy, both physical and spiritual.
“If we can set the stage for the energy of the room then the couple doesn’t have to work hard to make it romantic. Fine dining is not just about eating — people are looking for something different,” Kanavas said.
Gorgeous orchids and stargazer lilies decorate the restaurant and the delicate sounds of piano and guitar music, performed live, fill the air during the evenings.
Kanavas meditates regularly to fill the restaurant with positive energy and she has strategically placed amethyst and other crystal geodes throughout the restaurant to channel the energy in the room and create a calming effect.
For Valentine’s Day, the restaurant entertained a marriage proposal that ended with the entire dining room clapping.
“I was literally in tears — I am an incurable romantic at heart,” Kanavas said.
Kanavas says she never forgets the importance of happy customers.
“I want people to come out and feel good.”