For some, one of the highlights of the holiday season is taking the opportunity to wind down the year with a night on the town accompanied by a loved one or someone that will, fingers crossed, soon be the most cherished person in your life. The outing may include a couple of drinks, a fine meal, and a silent prayer that your partner won’t notice that you have two left feet on the dance floor. If you visited The Fifty Fourth restaurant atop the Toronto-Dominion Centre back in the late 1970s, you would have tossed in a fine view of the city and music from one of the country’s best vibraphonists.
The Fifty Fourth and its sibling, the Safari Lounge, first provided patrons magnificent views of the city in 1967. Besides mutant lobsters whose plans to conquer the city evaporated when they were tossed into boiling water, diners were treated to a “fine international menu” that spotlighted dishes like roast pheasant and Brome Lake duckling.
It’s odd that the generic depiction of musicians focuses on a horn player, as headliner Peter Appleyard gained fame for his skill with the vibraphone. Still active at age 80, Appleyard’s career stretches back to World War II, when the British native played in Royal Air Force bands. Appleyard was a busy man in 1977—he hosted his own syndicated television show, Peter Appleyard Presents, and served as musical director of The Fifty Fourth. His hiring, along with $14.50 prix-fixe meals, was part of the restaurant’s move to expand its clientele and play down its earlier reputation as one of the costliest places to eat in the city. Globe and Mail reviewer Blaik Kirby felt that “Appleyard’s quartet is admirably right because of its light weight as well as its conservative dinner repertoire. It noodles along pleasantly, jazz style, and never abuses your ears.”
Diners are still able to view the city from the top of the Toronto-Dominion Centre, courtesy of Canoe.
Source: The Globe and Mail, December 22, 1977. Additional material from the December 7, 1977 edition of the Globe and Mail and the March 9, 1979 edition of the Toronto Star.