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Home Film Festivals / Expos / Conventions Villa Azur Takes Toronto

Villa Azur Takes Toronto

villa2The Spoke Club Hosts Miami-Based Restaurant During TIFF

By Brittany Banks

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Toronto, Canada (The Hollywood Times) 9/10/16 – “Dining, sultry, celebrity, entertainment, fashion and art await you at Villa Azur at The Spoke Club during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival,” alleged Villa Azur co-owner Jean-Philippe Bernard.

A restaurant/lounge emerging from the South of France, Villa Azur has been prospering in South Beach, Miami since its inception four years ago. In light of TIFF, Villa Azur crafted a pop-up location at Toronto’s prestigious private members’ Spoke Club.

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Model/host Ben Lefevre and fashion blogger Jay Strut

Model/host Ben Lefevre and fashion blogger Jay Strut

Following frequent encouragement from local friends to open a Villa Azur in The Six, and knowing that TIFF is becoming increasingly renowned, Bernard’s longtime friend and Director of The Spoke Club, Pierre Jutras, felt like a seamless collaboration.

The festivities (September 8-11) included Thursday’s “All White Affair,” Friday’s “French Riviera Dinner Party,” and Saturday’s “Les Nuits de St. Tropez,” wrapping with Sunday’s “Champagne Brunch.”

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Now, for the goods you’ve all been waiting for: celebrity! Or…not? Friday’s event was “hosted” by gregarious underwear model Ben Lefevre. I use the term “hosted” lightly because in this case, it consisted of inviting his model friends to the party and socializing with the crowd.

Stephan M, the Miami location’s resident DJ, was spinning the tunes – until fashion/style blogger Jay Strut took the reigns, much to Stephan M’s dismay.

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 Jay Strut commanding the DJ booth

Jay Strut commanding the DJ booth

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At the onset, the music was light, including oldies “Hit the Road Jack,” the Bee Gees “Night Fever,” and even a female Jazz cover of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself.” The beats then transitioned to club music, featuring Beyoncé remixes, Justin Timberlake and the like. A saxophone player throughout the evening was a welcome touch.

Now, for the sake of full disclosure, I have never been to the South of France, so I cannot confirm or deny whether the objective to “transport one into a world of European elegance” was attained. I overheard some French servers talking, but that was the extent of the Francophone experience for me (and I am bilingual, for the record).

Nor can I comment on the cuisine being “reminiscent of the French Riviera” as I was excluded from the dinner portion (despite learning from an employee that there was copious availability. But I digress).

Stephan M

Stephan M

I was, however, originally offered to taste a couple of Villa Azur’s specialty cocktails. When I arrived at the bar to claim my goodies, I was informed that I was only entitled to bar rail. Then, when comedy magician/performance artist Alex Kazam kindly offered me a drink, I enjoyed the tantalizing “Smoke Thyme Peach Old Fashioned”: Jack single barrel, dry sprig, peach syrup, orange bitters and lime juice. (Shout out to the über talented bartender, Aaron!).

South Of France To Toronto, Villa Azur Celebrates 2016 Toronto International Film Festival With Inaugural pop-up location

South Of France To Toronto, Villa Azur Celebrates 2016 Toronto International Film Festival With Inaugural pop-up location

The décor was in fact breathtaking – I’ll give them that. It was undeniably lavish. The rooftop was the place to be on this 80ºF evening, despite its superfluous VIP bottle-service booths and dinner tables, resulting in virtually nowhere for yours truly to take up residence.

The crowd was an amalgamation of sophisticated couples and groups of friends aged 25+. Money was in the air. Despite a sluggish kickoff, the venue filled up at 10:30 pm.

One of the guests (who wished to remain anonymous) attributed the initial “watered down” atmosphere to the oversaturation of TIFF events in recent years. I can attest to that; downtown Toronto during TIFF is gridlock, in part due to the proliferation of organizations attempting to capitalize off of the esteemed tourist attraction.

The 41st edition of the Toronto International Film Festival

The 41st edition of the Toronto International Film Festival

Bernard, who has been visiting Toronto since 2005, falls “a little more in love with the city every time,” adding, “It’s time for the next big step: to internationalize the Villa Azur brand.”

The French Riviera Party aside, Villa Azur possesses the unassailable potential to thrive here and to make Toronto home.