Canada turns 150 this year and what better time than now to visit Ottawa! I’ve been a proud Canadian citizen for 25 years now but I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I’d visited Ottawa so I jumped at the opportunity to spend the weekend rediscovering it. It is such a lovely city and I did the touristy thing by visiting Parliament and other official government buildings. I also ate my way through the city for 3 days–of course!–because Ottawa has become a great food city in the past few years.
WHERE I ATE
– Where do you go to eat in Ottawa?
– You go to Montreal.
That’s a joke our waiter at Fauna told us and it might have been true a few years ago, but it’s not so true anymore because Ottawa has a lot to offer these days. Here’s where I ate.
Fairouz is the name of the greatest Lebanese singer there ever was and the Arab world’s favourite artist. Fairouz is also the name of a great Middle Eastern restaurant in Ottawa serving food that spans the region from Turkey and Iran to Lebanon, Syria and more. The elegant restaurant is located inside a heritage mansion. The light filed rooms are painted white with turquoise accents (Fairouz means turquoise in Arabic). Painted portraits of Fairouz and intricate Moorish screens and light fixtures complete the chic yet casual décor. Fairouz’ menu is rooted in tradition but served with a modern twist and a play on flavours. The plating is also just gorgeous and what made me want to try this restaurant (which I later found out is ranked 46 on Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants list for 2017). I especially loved the labneh with preserved lemons, zaatar and mint served with their freshly baked pita bread and the salmon pastourma with anchovy kataifi, olive and çemen aioli. For dessert, the halloumi cheesecake with hibiscus gel, rose pearls and pistachio crust is the perfect finale!
I dropped by Fauna for a very early dinner on Sunday before the drive back to Montreal. The place was almost empty but the welcome was friendly and attentive. Fauna recently made the Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants list at number 75, one of only two restaurants in Ottawa. The dining room is casual with a brick wall taking up one side of the room, dark wood tables and a large light fixture overlooking the bar. We started with the Blue Sea cocktail, an award winning concoction of Ungava gin, cucumber, black pepper, grapefruit, lemon and bird’s eye chili. It was one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. Our meal started with the Brussels sprouts with duck fat, Parmesan, truffle and crispy shallots and the country fried octopus with wasabi and horseradish mayo, slaw and gastrique. Our mains, which I shared a photo of on my Instagram, included the ling cod with fingerling chowder, cherry tomatoes, squash, collard greens, zaatar emulsion and carrot chips and the duck breast with a sage and goat cheese aligot, salsify, mushrooms, kale and a black trumpet puree. If you’re going to Ottawa, add Fauna to your list of restaurants to eat at.
A lively restaurant serving “Asian plates”, Datsun came highly recommended by several people. Sit at the back bar of the fun restaurant if you can and watch the action in the kitchen. The cocktails are really delicious, so is the elevated pan-Asian dishes, which are meant to be shared. I tried the pork belly steamed buns, the fried cauliflower with almonds, fresh curry leaves and curry sauce, the green papaya salad with cashews and young coconut and the spicy coconut milk laksa with seafood and ramen noodles. I would’ve had more food and drinks but I was having a second dinner next door at El Camino.
First came El Camino, then came its sister Datsun. However, if you are going to eat at both on the same evening, start with Datsun since it closes earlier (insider tip since no closing hours are specified on either website). El Camino is just as lively as Datsun but with a slightly darker ambiance. The food here is casual Mexican. Tacos start at 5$ and they are delicious, so yes, you can have two dinners in one night, or rather, a dinner followed by a few taco snacks! I tried the Japanese eggplant taco and the crispy fish taco and both were finger licking good. The shell was soft and malleable and the fillings crunchy with a zesty and flavourful sauce. Throw in a margarita and you’ve got yourself a great way to end a delicious night!
If there’s one place I really wanted to eat at, it’s Edgar’s for brunch. Located in Gatineau across the water from Ottawa, the tiny restaurant only counts about a dozen seats. It’s open for lunch during the week and for the much anticipated weekend brunch. We had to wait about 20 or 30 minutes before we could grab two of the coveted seats, so just order yourself a latte and hang out outside while waiting, it’s well worth it. Chef Marysol Foucault is a force to be reckoned with in her minuscule kitchen, from which she dishes out a new brunch menu every weekend. The Saturday I was there, we settled on the Dutch baby with apples, aged cheddar, maple syrup and pork belly as well as the poblano stuffed with pulled pork and topped with cheddar, served with fried eggs, onion rings, sweet potatoes and sour cream. The portions are generous and the plates as flavourful as they are beautiful. And even though I couldn’t muster another bite, I just couldn’t resist the display of enticing homemade pastries so I had to try the carrot cake. I am already planning another trip to Ottawa just to eat at Edgar’s again.
Hintonburg Public House
I went to this low-key, no frills brew pub for brunch. The space is an interesting collection of weathered wood, colourful chairs and stools, large-scale wall art and eclectic objects. The menu focuses on locally sourced food, wine and craft beer. The HPH Ploughman’s plate with Canadian bacon, farm fresh eggs, baked beans, country bread and jams kept me full all day and the HPH burger with whipped goat cheese and the house fries was delicious. It was too early for me to have a beer so I can’t say anything about their brews but the space is inviting and unpretentious, the staff friendly and the British pub-inspired comfort food well prepared.
WHAT I DID
Parliament of Canada
I visited Parliament, which I don’t think I have done since becoming a Canadian citizen 25 years ago! And it was such a fun visit! Our guide was very knowledgeable and made the visit really interesting. She took us on an exploration of the neogothic building, the Senate, the House of Commons and the iconic Library of Parliament, which I loved. We also climbed up Peace Tower from which you get a great view of the city. You should also definitely take a walk behind Center Block (the building with the Peace Tower) for great views of the Ottawa River, the National Gallery, several museums and Gatineau beyond. Definitely worth a visit and it’s free (get your ticket across the street)!
National Gallery of Canada
Ottawa boasts several museums and since we didn’t have that much time, we decided to stick to only one: the National Gallery of Canada. The museum takes a few hours to visit and you mustn’t miss Maman, Louise Bourgeois’ oversized spider sculpture outside the main entrance.
SNACKS AND COFFEE
This is the cutest little flower shop in the world and they just happen to serve coffee and snacks! Every corner of this tiny shop is a Pinterest dream, from the flowers and plants to the well-chosen objects, the quirky wall art, the vintage crates and more. You can also meet Klaus the dog and chat with the lovely owner.
The Ministry of coffee
With two locations in Ottawa, The Ministry of Coffee serves great quality coffee. Their Hintonburg location has a “slow bar” serving drip coffee. They also have snacks, sweet and savoury. I visited both locations while in Ottawa and they were both very busy so you know it’s good.
Everyone recommended SyzyQ’s doughnuts and judging from the long line up, it’s certainly fair to say that it’s a crowd favoutite! SuzyQ has a variety of classics that are always on sale as well as a large selection of seasonal flavours. If it’s nice, grab a box of six, a coffee from The Ministry of Coffee down the street and have your doughnuts outside in the sun. And check out the SuzyQ story on their website, it’s quite interesting!
That’s another one that everyone recommended and rightly so. The scones are outstanding! I stopped there on my way back to Montreal and brought a few scones back with me. I enjoyed them for breakfast for a few days after my return.
WHERE I STAYED
The whole impetus behind my weekend in Ottawa was an invitation by Corporate Stays to stay in one of their apartments. I picked Ottawa among the few cities they suggested, mainly because I hadn’t been in years and because it was a short drive away. Corporate Stays offered me an apartment in a high rise on Laurier Avenue, right in the heart of the Ottawa action. With several worldwide destinations under its belt, Corporate Stays has been a leading force in the short-term, furnished rentals for a few years now. Their apartments are fully furnished, down to the fully equipped kitchen, in case you decide to do some cooking while you’re away. The reservation process is simple and can be done via their website where they have an extensive description of each apartment, with photos. Most of the apartments also have concierge service, which makes it easy to pick up and drop off your keys. It’s also great having a local to chat with and get advice from for necessities like transport, pharmacies and banks around your apartment. The concierge at our Ottawa building was helpful in advising me on which museum was a must see. Our Corporate Stays apartment was a basic one-bedroom condo on the 14th floor of a modern building. It was sparingly furnished but included all necessities, including cable TV, Wi-Fi, a fully equipped kitchen, a dishwasher and a washer/dryer. We had access to the gym and the swimming pool downstairs but didn’t have time to indulge, unfortunately.
UNTIL THE NEXT TIME
I missed out on so many things but there’s only so much one can do and eat in two days. Here’s my partial list for next time though. Let me know if I’m missing anything. I am hoping to spend a day in Ottawa for the Tulip Festival in May.
North & Navy
Supply & Demand
Little Victories Coffee
This article was written in partnership with Corporate Stays.
I have many more photo of my Ottawa weekend that I couldn’t fit in here so check out my Facebook album!