The small café inside the atrium of the National Gallery of Canada has upped the food options at that venerable institution. In 2017, the gallery began working with a new food service company; shortly after, it brought on executive chef Alexandre Scott, whose previous gigs include the Bank of Canada and the Palais de Congrès in Gatineau. After some research into visitor satisfaction (or lack thereof) with regard to the food offerings, 7 Tapas opened.
With a view of the sun setting behind the Parliament Buildings — arguably the most beautiful view in Ottawa — it’s worth incorporating 7 Tapas into a gallery visit. Named after the Group of Seven paintings that attract so many visitors to the gallery, 7 Tapas offers seven cold entrées and seven hot entrées. The menu changes with the seasons and riffs off major exhibitions, aiming to emulate the artistry on the walls.
Of the cold entrées, we try the salad of edamame, arugula, and tofu; the spicy tofu seduces even a hard-and-fast tofu holdout. Less of a success is the poultry-liver tart, its raspberry jelly overwhelming the earthy umami of the meat.
On the warm side, creamy wild mushrooms are topped with puff pastry and beautifully presented with fresh herbs and edible flowers. The teriyaki beef is chewy, the plate offering a satisfying mix of salty and fruity thanks to a pineapple salsa. An autumn soup duet, which presents two flavours in a yin-and-yang design, is a classic leek and potato with lardons snuggling up to a simple pumpkin purée. A tagliatelle with duck confit could use a little counterpoint to the richness of the meat. We find crunchy fresh scallions at the bottom of the bowl — they would have been better with the first bites and not the last.
The wine list is international, with seven whites and seven reds offered in five- and eight-ounce pours.
While there is certainly room for improvement at 7 Tapas, it is an exciting development at the gallery. Art lovers who frequent the exhibitions would do well to add 7 Tapas to their must-try list. If you go to the gallery only to eat, you will need to get a special tag from the admissions desk; members receive a discount.
National Gallery of Canada, 380 Sussex Dr.
Small plates $14–$16. Open Friday to Wednesday 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Thursday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.