We’re Kind of Obsessed with This New Chinese Restaurant in Calgary
Modern Chinese food, whisky cocktails and art deco style come together at Two Penny.
The much-anticipated Two Penny has finally opened in Victoria Park! The latest project by Cody Willis and Thank You Hospitality (the same group behind Native Tongues and the recently opened Calcutta Cricket Club), Two Penny specializes in family-style Chinese food, updated for modern appetites.
Willis, along with partners Stephen Phipps, Andrea Robinson and Chef Scott Beaton, drew on their memories of visiting neighbourhood Chinese take-out joints as kids; Two Penny is a distillation of these excursions, updated to reflect the current demand for new culinary experiences. Menu items are familiar and designed to share: dumplings, wontons, spring rolls and steamed buns, fried rice and wok-fried noodles. There are larger meats, including a roasted half duck, crispy half chicken and Hong Kong-style char siu pork, and chef specials include whole market fish, classics like beef and broccoli made with Wagyu brisket and gai lan, cumin lamb chops and kung pao pork made with Dave’s bologna.
The multi-level space was transformed by designer Sarah Ward, who drew inspiration from 1920’s Shanghai, a period distinctive for its blending of traditional Chinese architecture and streamlined art deco: “The Chinese deco period provided such rich design inspiration,” says Ward. “We loved creating all of the specialty details that tell the story of the space.” At the entrance, you pass through a hand-built dark oak moon gate, a classic element of Chinese architecture that represents a connection between two worlds.
Rich textures and patterns complement and draw upon the existing finishes of the historical building on First Street SW. It’s warm and hip with understated glamour, and a palette of teal and dusty rose—classic art deco, according to Ward, with terracotta red reminiscent of temple shingles and the Chinese terracotta army. There are hand glazed, seafoam green tiles and natural wicker caning, soft rose velvet throw cushions on the benches, intriguing fringed pendant lights, and a textured fan pattern in the plaster wall finish, a subtle backdrop for oversized scrolls featuring Chinese opera masks from vintage cigarette cards.
Downstairs, the Tea House is darker and grittier, with a concrete floor and exposed wood, vintage Chinese posters and advertisements papering one wall, reclaimed brass and etched glass doors, all glowing with neon lights and Chinese lanterns strung over the bar. The hours are slightly later, there’s a different, pared-down menu, intriguing cocktails and dim sum cart service.
Stephen Phipps, formerly of Bourbon Room and Ricardo’s Hideaway, has taken on the role of beverage director at Two Penny, and has focused on cognacs, brandies and whisky cocktails, although there are some tasty gin concoctions as well, and a nice selection of local and imported beers.
1213 1st Street SW, Calgary