If the walls of Fonda Mexican in Windsor could talk, what a tale it would regale. Originally founded as a toy factory in the early 1900s back when Chapel Street was an industrial hub, and later housing the Salvo’s for over thirty years, the building came with its fair share of surprises when its current owners took over late last year.
Upon tearing down the masses of plaster board which had built up over the years like plaque, the owners were astounded to find a series of windows along the left flank of the building – now looking onto the neighbour’s brick boundary but providing a unique insight back through time to over 100 years ago when the building stood alone on this busy city block.
Fast forward over a century: In what can only be described as a ‘restoration rather than a renovation’ by part owner, Tim McDonald, the Fonda team engaged renowned architects, Techne to work with the team’s in-house designer, James Goldsmith, and breathe new life back into the worn down space.
Undaunted by the heritage overlay restrictions placed on the façade, the team worked in line with history rather than against it, to reintroduce elements of period ornamentation in the window frames, cathedral ceilings, stained glass windows, tiled skirtings and brass finishes.
Those sad windows staring aimlessly at the ominous brickwork just inches away have been transformed into portals overlooking vertical gardens which draw the eye straight away, while an abstraction of a colourful Mexican rug was painted on the concrete floor, and open shelving lined with cans and bottles just as they would in a pantry at home helped create a literal interpretation of the eatery’s namesake, Fonda which translates to ‘restaurant at home’.
Old primary school chairs scattered throughout the space lend to nostalgic memories of a school canteen while pops of colour in the threaded bench seating along the left side of the building have been inspired by the Mexican Acapulco chair, which is referenced again in the custom designed lighting by Techne above the central kitchen space.
The new Fonda Mexican is a lively, vibrant addition to the Chapel Street restaurant scene and with queues spilling out the door on a nightly basis, we bet the locals are devouring the design with their eyes while they slurp up Chapel Street’s finest Mexican fare.