One year ago, Ottawa’s downtown upscale Westin hotel became home to The Shore Club. The luxurious, yet understated, “Old World” steak and seafood restaurant was reported to have come with a $5-million price tag. No doubt the promise of the neighbouring new convention centre put investors at ease — there would be foot traffic and plenty of it. And there was little by way of competition either. Few posh restaurant choices exist in the core of the city for power brokers and out-of-towners craving lush lounge-like contemporary surroundings, formal service, and sure-to-please food. Shore Club, an imported concept from Vancouver, also offers the scale needed to create dining areas for a rendezvous requiring a bit more privacy.
Walking in at lunchtime, windows are mostly covered to protect the eyes from daylight and keep things focused on how wonderful your dining companion looks under the ultra-flattering glow of the room. There are white tablecloths, which match the formal coats worn by the male servers; women are dressed in black. All staff are clearly trained to greet us with eye contact and pleasantries. Our server seems especially keen to make small talk and offer recommendations. All fine until he asks, “So, what are your plans for the rest of the day?” So much for being discreet.
While the dinner menu is more evenly split between surf and turf, there seems to be more on offer from the ocean during the day. Appetizers include a Dungeness crab cake, clam chowder, and jumbo shrimp cocktail, while for mains there is fish and chips, salmon cakes, and a lobster club roll. But it’s the delightfully retro salads that caught my eye: the Chopped, the Waldorf, and the Cobb. Not just any Cobb, but a Lobster Cobb.
Served without the architectural and visual panache so common to today’s fine dining dishes, the Cobb comes loaded as if assembled at an all-you-can-eat salad bar. A large bed of chopped iceberg and romaine lettuces tossed in a creamy mayo/Ranch dressing lies across a long rectangular dish: evenly and generously scattered on top are real slivers of bacon, avocado pieces, red onion, a whole hard boiled egg and chunks of East Coast lobster, as well as bits of creamy blue cheese and a few cherry tomatoes. It’s a fine, filling lunch that lacks elegance but is strangely comforting.
Perhaps this salad gets its appeal from the same place as Mad Men, the TV program responsible for putting nostalgia back on the menu.
Cobb Salad: $20
Lunch served: Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Shore Club, 11 Colonel By Dr., 613-569-5050, www.theshoreclub.ca.