When Oat Couture owner Brian Montgomery first contacted chef Ben Baird more than a year ago to tell him about his plans for a new restaurant with an oatmeal-inspired menu, Baird told him the idea was crazy.
Baird then promptly went home, began playing around with oats, “and figured out they taste pretty amazing.” And so the two began dreaming up a concept for Old Ottawa South’s newest healthy-fast-casual café (1154 Bank Street at Glen Ave.).
For Montgomery, who works in the investment business, the café offers a creative outlet — the opportunity to dip a toe into an industry he has always been fascinated with. It has taken a while to get the café launched (the crew found some structural ‘surprises’ when they began renovating the space early last year), but now that it’s up and running, the plan is to be open 6am to 8pm, seven days a week.
Baird’s menu of oat bowls range from the dessert-like (think Campfire, which ties in graham cracker, toasted marshmallow, a ‘wee bit of raspberry’ and caramel) to the savoury and sophisticated (try Eden, with rosemary poached pear, fig, pecan, ermite blue cheese).
Also in the café lineup? A “killer coffee program” courtesy of Little Victories Coffee Roasters and other café staples such as baked goods and smoothies.
City Bites Insider caught up with Brian Montgomery last week as the finishing touches were being put into place.
“I’m in the investment business, which is pretty button-down profession. But I come from a family where my sister and cousin are chefs, so I’ve always wanted to do something in food.
“I originally wanted to do something with breakfast because the ‘all-day breakfast’ is such a big trend. Healthy-fast-casual is also big. I was thinking about opening a restaurant that had all different types of breakfast bowls, but that morphed into doing oatmeal beyond breakfast.
“When I began collaborating with Ben [Chef Ben Baird, who also runs the Ottawa Streat Gourmet food truck], he definitely widened the parameters of what the café could be, which is why I wanted a chef-driven menu. I was originally not even thinking about oatmeal in a savoury way, but the concept began to shift when he began experimenting.”
Making It Happen
“I knew Ben from both Urban Pear and Ottawa Streat Gourmet, so I was comfortable calling him up and sounding him out.
“I love food and I go to restaurants a lot, but I needed a chef to put his mind to this to turn it into something real. Once Ben started to get really into it, it didn’t take him long to come up with about 15 sweet and savoury oatmeal bowls for a taste-testing for 30 friends. It went from there.”
Menu Sneak Peek
- Caprese: Grape tomato, soft goat cheese, crispy prosciutto. Stir-in: basil and caper pesto
- Bubba: Marinated shrimp, avocado, cilantro. Stir-in: lime, cumin, agave, green onion
- Valentine: Chocolate chips, shredded coconut, dark cherries. Stir-in: vanilla cream
- Sorrento: Blueberry compote, toasted almonds. Stir-in: lemon curd
- Savannah: Pecan, cinnamon, yogurt, maple flakes, fresh nutmeg. Stir-in: apple sauce
- Lunchbox: Banana, almond butter, dates, coconut. Stir-in: raspberry puree
The Coffee Game
“We’re working with Little Victories, which I think is the best coffee in town. They’ll do all the barista training. So we’ll be an oatmeal café that does really great coffee. You can just come for coffee. We’ve also got great smoothies. And oatmeal cookies, of course.”
“We hope to be a community spot that also attracts a destination crowd. There are also lots of university students around here, and younger students at Hopewell Public School — it’ll be fun to see if the kids discover us.
“The building has a long history in this neighbourhood. It was home to Hortus Urbanus from 1997–2007, so I tracked down the owner to rehabilitate the garden and make a side garden and some seating. After that it was furniture store and, most recently, 3 Little Monkeys.
“I worked with Ottawa Commercial Interiors and designer Matt Edwards, both of whom have a real passion for the project. I think people will like what they see.”
1154 Bank Street at Glen Ave.