Thursday, June 11, 2009

Savoir Faire on the 9th Floor

A couple of weeks ago in one of the local newspapers here in Toronto was an article featuring Eaton’s Ninth Floor restaurant atop their department store in Montreal. I was intrigued as I remember department store restaurants back in Australia when I was just a young wee thing, however nothing as opulent and luxurious as this! This is an art deco masterpiece, which sadly is off limits to the public and sitting shrouded in decay, since the Eaton’s chain when bankrupt in the late 1990’s.

The restaurant drew its inspiration from the 1st class Salle a Manger on the French Line’s transatlantic liner the Ile De France (see pic below). The company’s matriarch Lady Flora Eaton travelled aboard the luxury liner in the 1920s, and was so impressed by what she found on the liner that the dining room was incorporated into the plan when Eaton's decided to expand its Rue St. Catherine store to nine floors from six in 1928.

The 650-seat dining room opened on Jan. 25, 1931, as Le François Premier, but the ladies who lunched there never called it that. It was always known as "The Ninth Floor."

The room is the work of interior designer Jacques Carlu, the French-born professor of advanced design at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was also responsible for the celebrated Trocadéro in Paris and the Rainbow Room in New York's Rockefeller Plaza. Carlu was also responsible for Toronto equivalent at the Toronto store, which I am happy to say, has been restored and functioning as an event space.

With opal glass, nickel steel railings, and pink marble columns with black Belgian marble accents, and monumental space the dining room remains one of the most staggeringly beautiful art deco rooms in Montreal, if not the world. This was a luxurious escape for lunch where with a bit of careful imagination we were on our way to Europe cocooned by the luxury around us.

Luckily it has been given heritage status by the Quebec government, however it is still mothballed. When and if its doors ever open again, the devotees of savoir faire will be lined up just to experience the cachet of dining in a space that harked back to days of style.
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