We’ve come a long way from the era when hotel dining rooms were places you visited out of necessity, rather than by choice. Today, savvy restaurateurs know that a hotel restaurant can do more than simply feed those housed in the rooms above; it can also be innovative enough to draw patrons off the street. A number of Ottawa’s favourite places to eat, drink and be merry just happen to be hotel dining rooms, so we take a look inside three of them to find out what makes them so popular.
FEAST + REVEL AND COPPER SPIRITS & SIGHTS
The brand new Andaz hotel on the edge of the ByWard Market is chic, welcoming and quite unlike anything else in Ottawa. It’s the first location in Canada to showcase Hyatt’s elite brand and is described as being contemporary Canadian, both land and water inspired.
Executive Chef Stephen LaSalle, who also serves as the hotel’s Food and Beverage Director, has developed a lineup of inventive offerings with many local and playful elements. On the main floor, feast + revel serves meals throughout the day with a range of seating options, plus an open kitchen and a beautiful private dining area for ten. The bar area shifts from being a morning coffee bar to a midday wine bar, and onto full cocktail service in the evenings.
“While all our food can be described as new Canadian with a sense of place, we incorporate modern British elements plus touches of Quebec brasserie,” says Stephen. Familiar items like risotto, bouillabaisse and steak are served with flavourful, often decadent flourishes, like the steak’s lobster-infused butter and blue cheese sauce. Other options include their “cheeky items,” such as an over-the-top poutine and savoury “beaver bread.”
Copper Spirits & Sights, the hotel’s stunning rooftop lounge, plays homage to the view of Ottawa’s copper-clad roofs from the large, west-facing space that includes an outdoor terrace. There’s a party vibe up here, with standout cocktails and an upscale snacks menu including potted salads, shrimp cocktail, cheese dips and charcuterie.
THE ALBION ROOMS
Located in the Novotel Ottawa across from the Rideau Centre, the Albion Rooms sets out to celebrate both Canadian roots and the rich history of the English Colonial experience across the globe as it serves up hand-crafted, true north hospitality in a casual setting.
Chef Jesse Bell describes the gastropub-style menu at the Albion Rooms as having a heavy accent on local products. His food showcases the best of contemporary Canadian cuisine, prepared with modern techniques. Since taking the helm about six months ago, he’s added such delights as salmon crudo, prepared with Ocean Wise Atlantic fish along with grapefruit, Pernod, grilled fennel and puffed wild rice.
The restaurant’s menu is also shifting to a smaller plate concept, offering lots of big flavours in smaller portions. “People see reasonable prices as an invitation to try new things,” says Jesse, who proudly admits that 70 percent of his guests come in off the street, rather than from the hotel.
One of the best ways to experience the Albion Rooms’ unique atmosphere is to sit at the bar and watch the action at the charcuterie station. “You can talk to the chefs and bartenders, who can guide you through the menu and help you select one of our creative cocktails or a local beer,” says Jesse. “This contributes a lot to the fun, interactive dining experience at the Albion Rooms.”
THE SHORE CLUB
Craig Stevenson, general manager of the Shore Club for the past year, describes his establishment quite simply. “It’s the steak and seafood restaurant inside the Westin that prides itself on offering terrific food and warm, welcoming service in one of the most beautiful rooms in Ottawa.”
It’s an apt description for the multilevel space that blends classic and contemporary décor with lots of soft lighting to add warmth and elegance. “We’ve spent the past year rejuvenating our offering and softening the hotel feeling,” explains Craig, noting that about 65 percent of the Shore Club’s traffic now comes in off the street. “We’ve made it a bit livelier through different music and by having our staff interact more with guests, making the atmosphere much more vibrant.”
Chef Jason Groulx has refreshed the food menu to add more seasonal elements with a mix of larger and smaller plates, plus a favourite deep-fried chicken dish. Low Tide is their popular weekday happy hour that features buck-a-shuck oysters, sliders and drink specials. Lunch and dinner menus include an appealing range of appetizers and salads, plus steakhouse and seafood favourites.