Going Out

Tropical yoga retreat without leaving Ottawa?!? Private bistro/yoga studio takes guests ‘far, far away’

It’s the very definition of “build it and they will come.” Located in a windswept field in the city’s far west end, Aquatopia Water Garden Conservatory glows like a beacon. Set on 24 acres of mostly wooded land, it’s a destination venue — no neighbours for miles in every direction. And yet it’s immediately obvious that owners Nicholas Bott and Catherine Neville are onto a good thing.

Photo: Brendan Burden
Photo: Brendan Burden

What began a couple of years ago as a garden paradise designed to showcase the expertise of Bott’s company, The Pond Clinic, as well as serve as a year-round wedding venue, Aquatopia has quickly morphed into “a million businesses in one.” So says executive chef Reshad Rezai, the man behind the sunny Aquatopia Bistro, once briefly a coffee shop/eatery open to the public, now a “unique private space” for brunch, lunch, dinner and/or special celebrations/events.

Recent change announced at Aquatopia!
Change announced at Aquatopia back in late 2017

The change from cafe to private bistro came about because of a “high demand” for private bookings, notes Bott in an email.

Aquatopia's executive chef Reshad Rezai
Aquatopia’s executive chef Reshad Rezai. Photo: courtesy of Aquatopia

The cafe closed in late October. The bistro now offers private guests a “French-style service” along with Rezai’s diverse menu that is no longer limited to veg-only options: such dishes as Merguez lamb sausage in puff pastry and fresh oysters.

Photo: courtesy of Aquatopia
Photo: courtesy of Aquatopia

Imagine your guests enjoying a delicious meal next to a burbling pond that flashes with red and silver as dozens of koi swim close to the surface. Tropical plants add to the impression that you and your guests could be somewhere far, far away.

A curtain of greenery flows down over the entrance to the staff offices located at the back of the café. The café and its sister greenhouse have become a popular destination for weddings and large meetings
A curtain of greenery flows down over the entrance to the staff offices located at the back of the café. The café and its sister greenhouse have become a popular destination for weddings and large meetings. Photo: Brendan Burden
Photo: Brendan Burden
Photo: Brendan Burden

With the greenhouses quiet on weeknights after The Pond Clinic closed for the day, chef Rezai began to wonder whether there might be room for a few wintertime yoga retreats.

Yoga? Indeed. The chef’s wife is a yoga teacher; he practises yoga. It was only a matter of time before someone came up with the brilliant idea of wintertime “yoga under the stars” classes. Clear away the tables, and the event greenhouse is transformed into a steamy, flora-lined yoga space with natural stone floors and a barely-there glass ceiling. Dim the lights, light some candles, and you’re in a jungle under the stars. Regular classes start as soon as the temperatures begin to dip, running once or twice a week throughout winter.

Yoga under the stars sessions are $45; class size maxes out at 35 and includes a three-course, post-yoga vegan meal at the café. [There is an event scheduled for Friday, Jan 12, 2018]

Anchored by a coffee bar from which staff serve drinks and pastries. The back side of the bar is home to a plant wall, a welcoming scene as visitors enter the building
Anchored by a coffee bar from which staff serve drinks and pastries. The back side of the bar is home to a plant wall, a welcoming scene as visitors enter the building. Photo: Brendan Burden