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Ottawa's Beckta & Wellington Gastropub


merlin
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After not having been to Ottawa in quite a number of years I was back for a second time in the space of just about a month or so.

Once again I had a delicious meal complemented by some very good wine at Beckta where I had dinner two of the three nights during my first visit. I very much enjoy the classy but at the same time, casual feel of this restaurant.

In the course of the evening the owner, Stephen Beckta, inquired if I needed any recommendations for another spot to try while visiting. I did and he suggested the Wellington Gastropub at 1325 Wellington [www.thewellingtongastropub.com]. He phoned the pub making arrangements for me to be able to sit up at their bar which is where I usually want to eat when traveling solo.

I gather the chef, Christopher Deraiche and head of front of house, Shane Waldron both used to work at 18 in the Market. I had heard of 18, probably from discussions here on this web-site but had not tried it.

So the next evening I took a cab off along Sommerset which eventually turns back into Wellington through an interesting mix of neighbourhoods. Lebanese bakeries and meat shops giving way to Chinese, then Vietnamese and Thai shops past two quite large and imposing Asian restaurants across the street from each other that I remember from years and years ago.

I am not sure of the name of the area where the Wellington is but it seems to be going through a bit of a revival or renewal. Two or three English or Irish pubs that looked busy and the landmark I was told to look for by chef Chris when I phoned for directions, the Ottawa Bagel bakery.

I do not know about your experiences but out here in Alberta, the term "gastropub" usually prompts a series of not so flattering reactions from those not familiar with the European term. Leaving that aside, I have unfortunately found that contrary to the promised inventive up-scale food it has often meant pretty standard fare but with higher prices.

Not so at the Wellington. You walk up the internal staircase from front door off Wellington [there is a private dining room in the "White Room" which I am told is no longer white that was closed this evening on the bottom floor] which leads to the bar which can accomodate about 6 or 7 persons. The staircase essentially divides the room in half. I think the restaurant seats about 65 to 70 persons and true to its former "life" as a Scottish pub has a lot of hardwood planking, wooden tables and chairs with one side banquettes and sofas.

I was warmly greeted by Shane [whose hospitality I returned, much to my own chagrin, by getting his name wrong for most of the balance of the evening...blame it on the wine!] and seated at the bar. When I arrived there were just two ladies "holding court" at one corner getting a lesson in ales and lagers from the bartender Paul. The pub has quite a number of beers on offer. Most I am told from local breweries.

For me the attraction was Stephen Beckta's recommendation of their wine list and especially those available by the glass. It was quite good and I started with a glass of Albarinho from Spain.

I then was left to go over the menu which I am told changes daily depending upon what is fresh and available. The menu quickly confirmed that this was not a pub based upon bangers and mash, fish and chips and mushy peas or pork pies......

The appetizers ranged from a white bean and almond soup, chiffonade of mint [$7] to seared foie gras, carmelized apple and pecan compote [$15]. Also available was a Lolla rosa & pea shoot salad, parmesan, blood orange vinaigrette, green apple and truffle oil [$8], tuna tataki and a grilled vegetable napoleon at {$13] and [$11] respectively.

I opted for the salad even though I had to ask Paul what Lolla rosa was.

While waiting for my appetizer I muched on some outstanding bread. It comes from the same baker who supplies Beckta and I am told other Ottawa restaurants whose bakery is close by the Wellington as I saw a large tray of loafs carried in by someone. I meant to remember the baker's name and even scrawled it down but then, as is my wont, tossed it out. The whole grain and fennel loaf in particular is delicious.

My salad was a good starter. Nice greens complemented by the cheese and vinaigrette. Lots of flavours. Simple ... if you can call anything complemented by truffle oil to be simple ... very good.

For my main course I chose the duck breast, grilled eggplant cannelloni stuffed with spiced quinoa, baby squash and sweet tomato sauce [$26]. The menu also offered a grilled 10 oz striploin [$28], scallops, crab and parmesan risotto [$24], the pasta was fettuccine with green olive and caperberry fondue {$18] and trout, swiss chard, gnocchi, pickled beets and creme fraiche [$22].

In between courses the chef sent out a small plate of gnocchi with a broken veal sauce which would have been good as a main as well. I opted to have a glass of the pinot noir from the Vincor/Boisset collaboration in the Niagara, Le Clos Jordanne. This is a wine which I had for the first time the night before at Beckta. I think in both cases it was the '04 Village Reserve label which apparently retailed at about $25. A price which I find astonishing given its quality. I did some internet sleuthing and see that their top end $60 label sold out very quickly but I certainly would like to get more of this "entry level" pinot.

I almost did not order the duck as I misread the menu that thought that it was going to be a duck cannelloni and I was not particularly interested in pasta but I do enjoy duck. I should have known when Paul inquired how I wanted my duck done.

As it turned out it was a delicious duck breast served rare as ordered accompanied by the "eggplant cannelloni" with the former replacing the pasta component. The quinoa had a nice "bite" with the flavours and some heat added by cumin, tumeric, cardamon, garlic etc. The baby squash had been thinly sliced and barely sauteed so they still had some crunch.

With this course I again opted for the Le Clos Jordanne. I thought the "old world style" of the pinot worked very well with the duck and spiced grain.

I think I had arrived at about 6:30 or so and at that time the restaurant was about half full. As the clocked approached 7:00 more and more people had arrived and quite shortly people were being turned away promising to make reservations the next time. A nice neighbourhood feel about it. Very pleasant atmosphere. You would be comfortable whether casually dressed or "suited up". It compares favourably with one of my favourite restaurants of this type, Victoria's Brasserie L'Ecole.

I finished off my meal with some very good Ontario cheese.

The Wellington Gastropub was a terrific "find" which if you get a chance and are in Ottawa, one should try. I doubt that you will be disappointed.

Thank you Shane [got it right that time], Chef Chris and Paul for a very good meal and evening

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Excellent review!

I am based in Ottawa and I also am a fan of both Beckta and the Gastropub.

Hopefully the success of the Gastropub will lead to more casual eateries with great food (Ottawa could use a Pied de Cochon :smile: ).

The wonderful bread you had at both places is from Art-is-In, which I just refer to as the bread genius, :smile:. If I am not mistaken, they are now setup in the basement of the Ottawa Bagel Shop, right next door to the Gastropub. That neighborhood is called Westboro and has a very nice selection of shops and restaurants.

The Ottawa culinary scene still has a long way to go but these two places are hopefully inspiring a renewal...

Next time you are in town, you might want to check out Aroma, just across the street from Beckta, they serve greek meze, similar concept to tapas. I also enjoyed Ambiente on Beechwood, young team doing the right things.

Cheers,

Michel

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Michel:

Thank you for the info.

Just "Google'd" Art-Is-In and I think Kevin Mathiesen is the name I had mentioned to me.

The "blurb" I read referred to Bistro 1908 which is a spot I remember fondly from visits years and years ago despite my awkward efforts at using my Albertan French..."does your dog bite?"...mind you, the more minervois red wine I drink the better I "think" [grin] I can parlez-vous.

Funny, you commented on Aroma. I almost stopped in on spec on both occasions. Originally, I was not sure where Beckta was located apart from being on Nepean so when I initially saw the lights, assumed that Aroma was it before looking diagonally across the street.

I love the meze concept. It is on my list for the next time I am back in town with my wife so that we can order more small plates and try different things. Maybe during the summer.

...and yes, EVERY city could use an AP de C...still one of the best evenings I have had sitting up at their cooking bar drinking lots of good red wine and devouring duck and foie being charmed by the server Eugenie......

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Sounds great, will be in Ottawa the second week of May, have already had the pleasure of Beckta our last trip to the city,but will do the Gastropub this time for sure. Bob, we seem to be following each other around a lot - haha! We will be heading into Montreal for a 4 night runaway from family at the end of our trip, and good suggestions. We are staying at the Hotel St. Paul in Old Montreal - looking forward to a lot of good food, especially some of the cheeses from Quebec.

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Sounds great, will be in Ottawa the second week of May, have already had the pleasure of Beckta our last trip to the city,but will do the Gastropub this time for sure. Bob, we seem to be following each other around a lot - haha! We will be heading into Montreal for a 4 night runaway from family at the end of our trip, and good suggestions. We are staying at the Hotel St. Paul in Old Montreal - looking forward to a lot of good food, especially some of the cheeses from Quebec.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I just have to add that Shane at the Gastropub is a class act. Last Friday, we were celebrating a friend's retirement and had reserved days in advance. Somehow, the reservation got lost. We arrived and...no reservation. Crowds of people streaming through the door. Shane was just amazing. He phoned down the street to get us a reservation at another restaurant, gave us a gift certificate toward the next time, and the crowning touch - when we arrived at the other restaurant, there was a bottle of celebratory wine waiting for us. Instead of being disgruntled and angry, we are excited about going to the Gastropub soon, and we are spreading the word. With attention like this, and food to match (it sounds like, from the reports), I have great hopes!

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annadev:

Shane impressed me as being a professional class act...you just confirmed it...can only bode well for the Wellington...Hope your return trip is as enjoyable as my first one was.

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  • 1 month later...

Just returned back from our two weeks with family in Ottawa and area, and finished with 4 nights in Montreal (posted in the Quebec section) and had some very good eats, including the Wellington Gastropub due to Merlins' review.

Wellington Gastropub was amazing, great food, comfortable atmosphere, interesting and tasty wines and impeccable service. Honestly can't remember the last time I was so delighted at a restaurant - high marks all around.

Sweetwaters in the Market area - We went because I had read an article that one of the sous chefs was well known locally for his pates, and thought we would go to the source to try them there, but they do not carry his pates at Sweetwaters (?). Otherwise, good to very good food (my father raved about the bison burger), and I ended up with one of the terrines which was quite nice - service decent at best, but nice location on Murray street away from the big crowds in the Market.

Haveli - Very good Indian lunch buffet - several locations I believe, we were in the Bells Corner spot - nice selections, great beef vindaloo.

Otherwise most time with family, got my necessary fix of California Roast - a locally made dish combining pork tenderloin rubbed with spices which is then surrounded by boneless breast of chicken, also lightly spiced tied together. Barbecued at med-high heat for 45 minutes and it is amazing.

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Tofino:

Glad your visit to the Wellington was as good as mine. I'll be down that way for a week in August so expect that a return visit will be in the "proverbial cards".

That barbequed California Roast sounds delicious. I have never heard of it.

I will wander over to the Quebec section and read what else you had when in Montreal.

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Wellington Gastropub was amazing, great food, comfortable atmosphere, interesting and tasty wines and impeccable service.  Honestly can't remember the last time I was so delighted at a restaurant - high marks all around.

Sweetwaters in the Market area - We went because I had read an article that one of the sous chefs was well known locally for his pates, and thought we would go to the source to try them there, but they do not carry his pates at Sweetwaters (?). 

Just got back from a few days in ottawa myself. Will weigh in a little more expansively as time allows.

Had a good meal at Wellington G-pub.

Are the pate's you mentioned made by my friend Dave Neil? He told me he was getting a profile in the Ottawa media, but I didn't realize his charcuterie was available away from the resto. We tried to check out Sweetgrass for lunch yesterday but they aren't open for lunch on the weekend. I should have checked first.

Cheers,

Geoff Ruby

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Hello,

Yes I believe his name was David Neil, and I heard he was available at several charcuteries in the market but when we searched them out and enquired they said they had none at the time - too bad!

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