Much anticipation as the Hyatt’s Andaz Ottawa readies to open in late August on Dalhousie Street. Executive Chef Stephen La Salle, who most recently turned The Albion Rooms into a must-visit spot during his tenure, now takes over a new kitchen that includes a stone hearth oven that will be front and centre as guests enter the hotel. “Cooking with that oven is going to add a genuineness and elemental nature to the food,” says La Salle, who is describing his menu as “new Canadian, with a sense of place.”
Sarah Brown joined La Salle (along with food and beverage manager Sarah Wenglensky-Suggitt) for a trip up to the 16th floor rooftop bar and lounge with the most incredible views of the city.
Since we’re standing here on the 16th floor, talk to me about what this lounge is going to be when it’s finished.
It’s designed to be enjoyed. We’re going to have a couple of fire pits up here to keep things warm, some trees. I see it as kind of cabana-style. There will be a menu of small plates and amazing cocktails and phenomenal craft beers. The food will be great, but it will be the views and drinks that are the stars of the show up here.
Do you picture hotel guests or locals hanging out on the roof?
Definitely both. No one has ever seen this view before. It’s incredible. There’s the open patio, but also a covered room with floor-to-ceiling windows, so we’re calling it a three-and-a-half-season patio. You can pretty much be up here all year.
Okay, back to the food. You’ve had five months to think about it!
Yes, there’s obviously a story to tell so I’ve been thinking of Ottawa as a place of confluence; of coming together. There are the rivers meeting and the English and French histories. There’s a regional story to tell with the food — I have been working on a menu that incorporates a modern take on British cuisine, as well as classic French cuisine from the Quebec side.
What are you calling it?
I’m describing the menu as ‘new Canadian with a sense of place.’
Does that ‘sense of place’ mean your suppliers will be local?
Definitely. What’s amazing as I stand here looking out is that I can almost see the places where the food is coming from. Across the river, there’s Wakefield, where Juniper Farm is located. And if I look straight down the river, I can almost see to Carp and Acorn Creek or Almonte and Hummingbird Chocolate.
So the ‘going local’ idea is very strong throughout.
Yes. I feel like teaming up with Andaz [by Hyatt] is a match made in heaven. The focus on local is not just about marketing — it’s part of the philosophy throughout the hotel.
Will you be naming suppliers in the menus?
We plan to. There are so many people doing amazing things around here so it’s exciting to be able to make the connections and talk about their stories.
I hear that even the mini-bar is seriously local.
It is. Locally made honey granola bars, kombucha, Harvey & Vern’s sodas, Hummingbird chocolate, Canadian wines…. We’re even hoping to carry Beau’s Lug Tread, but with a special label designed specifically for Andaz.
Tell me about the main restaurant space on the first floor.
The main floor is a very fluid, open space. The hotel lounge and the restaurant flow together. There’s a long welcoming bar and a big wood-fired stove that guests will be able to go and look at. The bar space will have different personalities as the day goes on — it will begin the day as a breakfast spot, then a later morning and afternoon coffee spot with baristas, then more of a wine and cocktail bar.
And even though it’s fluid, there’s more of a lounge-y side and a restaurant side.
Right. And there’s a small private dining room that can be booked for more intimate get-togethers. It seats 12.
Is it overwhelming, planning menus for the restaurant, the bar-lounge, catered events?
There is a lot to do. There’s the full restaurant menu — with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m just working on a great two-course prix-fixe business lunch. We’ll be baking our own pastries and want to try bagels in the wood-fired oven. There’s the signature bar menu… Yes, it’s a lot!
What’s a typical day look like for you right now?
I can’t complain. A typical day might be spending a morning tasting beers or wines that might be on the menu, then researching and choosing things I’ll need for the kitchen.
Still, I’m sure you’d rather be in the kitchen.
Yes, I’m anxious to get in the kitchen. I’ve been assembling my crew so I want to get going.
We’ve got one in mind, but for now let’s just say we’re definitely aiming for sometime in August.