E18hteen Restaurant's intimate lounge area.
Visited some terrific restaurants while in Ottawa on a FAM trip organized by Fairmont Hotels.
Enjoyed a fine lunch at Play Food & Wine, the hotspot launched in early 2009 by Stephen Beckta and chef Michael Moffatt (of popular Beckta dining & wine).
Play is bright and airy, thanks to bare-wood tables, picture windows, a small, L-shaped bar and a light-blue colour palette.
The focus is on small plates – say, a deeply satisfying warm salad of sliced zucchini, bacon, walnuts, olive oil and black-olive tapenade. Following that were three perfectly seared Digby scallops with tender green beans and oyster mushrooms.
An upstairs semi-private area seats 26; the main restaurant holds 46 (sit-down meals) and 80 to 100 (cocktails), for corporate business meetings.
That night, I visited Murray Street, whose interior has a convivial, upscale-pub feel (hardwood floors, exposed brick). In the warm weather, the 52-seat covered patio exudes sophistication.
A chunky, garlicky white-bean puree (served with pickled red onion, cornichon pickles and fig-balsamic jam) was delicious and rustic, as was a salad of sugar-sweet tomatoes with goat cheese.
Properly underdone in the middle, wild sockeye salmon, glazed with barbecue sauce, sat on quinoa, hubbard squash and yellow beans.
And then the weekend’s best dessert: A wicked-good ’smores (espresso-scented chocolate layered with crushed, house-made graham crackers and bourbon marshmallow), served in a jar.
For groups organized by meeting and event planners, the restaurant is available for buyouts of 20 to 42 people, depending on the night of the week.
Also deeply satisfying was my meal at e18hteen. It’s a gorgeous space, outfitted with exposed stone and, in the street-level dining area, featuring a soaring, atrium-like ceiling. Up a few stairs is a more intimate, chandeliered eating area and lounge.
Among the pleasures were whisper-tender scallop sashimi, and corn chowder perfumed with lemon thyme and studded with velvety B.C. spot prawns.
But the showstopper was B.C. black cod, stained mahogany with a soy-based marinade redolent of ginger and paired with a thick, carrot-coconut puree.
Three curtained-off wine rooms, seating 12, 20 and 30, are available for groups, as are the 40-seat lounge and street-level dining areas of 20 and 30 seats.
All three restaurants are located in the Byward Market area – Ottawa’s noshing nexus – and are a short walk from area hotels such as the Fairmont Chateau Laurier.