Ladies Who LunchPublished on April 11, 2010

  • Tea service at Zoe's Lounge, Fairmont Chateau Laurier

  • Dormus Café

  • Dorus' Quebec beets, celeriac and remoulade salad

Whether it's all business or pure pleasure, lunch offers more than just an opportunity to enjoy a fabulous meal.

From a tête-à-tête with a close friend to a planning session or even a mid-day date, lunch represents a respite from the daily grind. For Ottawa fashionistas, a lunch outing might also be the perfect excuse to embrace the latest trends that see femininity firmly back in the spotlight. We've scouted out three top spots where ladies who lunch are sure to feel at home.

The Fairmont Chateau Laurier

There's something special about visiting the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, a grand hotel offering impressive views of the Rideau Canal and the Parliament Buildings. Mindful of its role as one of Ottawa's most recognizable landmarks, the Chateau is constantly refreshing its décor and menus to keep pace with changing appetites.

The Chateau presents two lovely options for those looking for daytime refreshments. Wilfrid's Restaurant offers lunch fare that ranges from light and wholesome to hearty and decadent, while Zoe's Lounge is home to sumptuous afternoon tea featuring scones, finger sandwiches and a formal tea service. "Our afternoon tea is elegant and very social," says Deneen Perrin, Director of Public Relations. "It certainly harkens back to a less hectic era when women had more time to linger with friends."

Although the hotel is a heritage property, it is run with a distinctly contemporary approach. "Chef Geoffrey Morden makes a point of focusing on sustainability and accommodating dietary needs of all kinds," explains Deneen. At Wilfrid's, while the à la carte menu is wonderful, the lunch buffet with its large, colourful salad bar is a top seller. On the hot line, the ever-changing options typically include fish, chicken, quiche, rice pilaf, and prime rib as well as an à la minute pasta station. As the only hotel in Ottawa with an executive pastry chef, Wilfred's dessert buffet is not to be missed.

At lunchtime, you may see the Chef huddled with a bride-to-be and her friends, exploring menu options. Similarly, the Chateau is a popular location for gala committee meetings and celebrity spotting is common. But it is not just a place for special occasions -- every day the Chateau draws lunch patrons from across the region, diners who also enjoy browsing in the gift shops and perusing the historic photos in the heritage gallery.

Domus Café

While the warm, minimalist décor at Domus Café is comfortable and inviting, it's the food that makes this Byward Market eatery very popular. Chef and owner John Taylor has been a trailblazer in the local, seasonal food movement with a mission to connect restaurants and diners more directly with the regions farmers. Reservations are recommended as Domus tends to be very busy at lunchtime, given its central location and consistently impressive food.

With its lemony walls and south-facing windows, Domus is certainly one of Ottawa's cheeriest lunch spots. The majority of lunch clientele at Domus are either business people or groups of ladies, says John, but in the summertime, the focus shifts to include lots of tourists. He likens the bustling mid-day atmosphere in the restaurant to controlled chaos, noting that many customers enjoy being able to watch the action in the kitchen as they dine.

Among Domus' more popular lunch offerings are salads and the daily fish special, which is usually BC Salmon or house-smoked fish chowder. During the spring and summer, you're likely to find fresh, wild lake fish from Ontario. "Our Frittata is always in demand and from spring through fall, the Stacked Tomato Salad is a big favourite, along with items based on Crazy Dave's local greens and heirloom tomatoes. Domus has definitely built a reputation over the years for our delicious soups as well," says John.

Domus sees its share of famous lunch patrons, and you may rub shoulders with politicians, embassy ladies, musicians or hockey players. Fans of Domus will also be delighted to know that John's new venture, Taylor's Genuine Food and Wine Bar, will be opening this spring offering another delightful lunch possibility for those who appreciate his uncompromising approach to food.

Perspectives at Brookstreet Hotel

One of the most elegant lunch spots in the west end is Perspectives Restaurant at Kanata's Brookstreet Hotel. With its chic, modern décor, Perspectives offers outstanding ambience and exceptional cuisine. Nestled beside a golf course, it offers beautiful vistas any time of year and in summertime the patio seems worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Given Perspectives' reputation for never rushing guests, groups tend to linger over lunch. Many choose to extend their visit with a complementary dip in one of the hotel's salt-water pools, a session in the Flex Fitness Studio, or a treatment at the luxurious on-site spa. Equally popular with local executives, hotel guests and ladies who lunch, the restaurant's bright, sophisticated atmosphere is matched by excellent seasonal fare and outstanding wines.

"With Brookstreet hosting the majority of NHL teams that play against the Senators, it is not uncommon to see a hockey star dining at Perspectives, or high profile business leaders dining in our private dining lounge," notes Brookstreet's marketing manager Caroline Savignac. "Chef Clifford Lyness takes great care in crafting lunch menus to incorporate seasonal, regional ingredients. He offers lighter choices and classic favourites, as well as selections that appeal to everyone from vegetarians to fans of a great steak."

Particularly popular at lunchtime are fresh fish, creative soups, savoury pastas and crisp greens. Whatever your preference, with temptations like a Valrhona chocolate soufflé on the menu, it's a good idea to save room for dessert because even ladies who lunch often deserve a sweet treat now and then.

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