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Unexpected Return to Ottawa: Beckta & Wellington Gastro Pub


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Unexpected Return to Ottawa: Beckta & Wellington Gastro Pub

Bob Mac | Apr 6, 2007 10:02 AM

After not having been to Ottawa in quite a number of years I was back for a second time in the space of just about a month or so.

Once again I had a delicious meal complemented by some very good wine at Beckta where I had dinner two of the three nights during my first visit. I very much enjoy the classy but at the same time, casual feel of this restaurant.

In the course of the evening the owner, Stephen Beckta, inquired if I needed any recommendations for another spot to try while visiting. I did and he suggested the Wellington Gastropub at 1325 Wellington []. He phoned the pub making arrangements for me to be able to sit up at their bar which is where I usually want to eat when traveling solo.

I gather the chef, Christopher Deraiche and head of front of house, Shane Waldron both used to work at 18 in the Market. I had heard of 18, probably from discussions here on this web-site but had not tried it.

So the next evening I took a cab off along Sommerset which eventually turns back into Wellington through an interesting mix of neighbourhoods. Lebanese bakeries and meat shops giving way to Chinese, then Vietnamese and Thai shops past two quite large and imposing Asian restaurants across the street from each other that I remember from years and years ago.

I am not sure of the name of the area where the Wellington is but it seems to be going through a bit of a revival or renewal. Two or three English or Irish pubs that looked busy and the landmark I was told to look for by chef Chris when I phoned for directions, the Ottawa Bagel bakery.

I do not know about your experiences but out here in Alberta, the term "gastropub" usually prompts a series of not so flattering reactions from those not familiar with the European term. Leaving that aside, I have unfortunately found that contrary to the promised inventive up-scale food it has often meant pretty standard fare but with higher prices.

Not so at the Wellington. You walk up the internal staircase from front door off Wellington [there is a private dining room in the "White Room" which I am told is no longer white that was closed this evening on the bottom floor] which leads to the bar which can accomodate about 6 or 7 persons. The staircase essentially divides the room in half. I think the restaurant seats about 65 to 70 persons and true to its former "life" as a Scottish pub has a lot of hardwood planking, wooden tables and chairs with one side banquettes and sofas.

I was warmly greeted by Shane [whose hospitality I returned, much to my own chagrin, by getting his name wrong for most of the balance of the evening...blame it on the wine!] and seated at the bar. When I arrived there were just two ladies "holding court" at one corner getting a lesson in ales and lagers from the bartender Paul. The pub has quite a number of beers on offer. Most I am told from local breweries.

For me the attraction was Stephen Beckta's recommendation of their wine list and especially those available by the glass. It was quite good and I started with a glass of Albarinho from Spain.

I then was left to go over the menu which I am told changes daily depending upon what is fresh and available. The menu quickly confirmed that this was not a pub based upon bangers and mash, fish and chips and mushy peas or pork pies......

The appetizers ranged from a white bean and almond soup, chiffonade of mint [$7] to seared foie gras, carmelized apple and pecan compote [$15]. Also available was a Lolla rosa & pea shoot salad, parmesan, blood orange vinaigrette, green apple and truffle oil [$8], tuna tataki and a grilled vegetable napoleon at {$13] and [$11] respectively.

I opted for the salad even though I had to ask Paul what Lolla rosa was.

While waiting for my appetizer I muched on some outstanding bread. It comes from the same baker who supplies Beckta and I am told other Ottawa restaurants whose bakery is close by the Wellington as I saw a large tray of loafs carried in by someone. I meant to remember the baker's name and even scrawled it down but then, as is my wont, tossed it out. The whole grain and fennel loaf in particular is delicious.

My salad was a good starter. Nice greens complemented by the cheese and vinaigrette. Lots of flavours. Simple ... if you can call anything complemented by truffle oil to bei simple ... very good.

For my main course I chose the duck breast, grilled eggplant cannelloni stuffed with spiced quinoa, baby squash and sweet tomato sauce [$26]. The menu also offered a grilled 10 oz striploin [$28], scallops, crab and parmesan risotto [$24], the pasta was fettuccine with green olive and caperberry fondue {$18] and trout, swiss chard, gnocchi, pickled beets and creme fraiche [$22].

In between courses the chef sent out a small plate of gnocchi with a broken veal sauce which would have been good as a main as well. I opted to have a glass of the pinot noir from the Vincor/Boisset collaboration in the Niagara, Le Clos Jordanne. This is a wine which I had for the first time the night before at Beckta. I think in both cases it was the '04 Village Reserve label which apparently retailed at about $25. A price which I find astonishing given its quality. I did some internet sleuthing and see that their top end $60 label sold out very quickly but I certainly would like to get more of this "entry level" pinot.

I almost did not order the duck as I misread the menu that thought that it was going to be a duck cannelloni and I was not particularly interested in pasta but I do enjoy duck. I should have known when Paul inquired how I wanted my duck done.

As it turned out it was a delicious duck breast served rare as ordered accompanied by the "eggplant cannelloni" with the former replacing the pasta component. The quinoa had a nice "bite" with the flavours and some heat added by cumin, tumeric, cardamon, garlic etc. The baby squash had been thinly sliced and barely sauteed so they still had some crunch.

With this course I again opted for the Le Clos Jordanne. I thought the "old world style" of the pinot worked very well with the duck and spiced grain.

I think I had arrived at about 6:30 or so and at that time the restaurant was about half full. As the clocked approached 7:00 more and more people had arrived and quite shortly people were being turned away promising to make reservations the next time. A nice neighbourhood feel about it. Very pleasant atmosphere. You would be comfortable whether casually dressed or "suited up". It compares favourably with one of my favourite restaurants of this type, Victoria's Brasserie L'Ecole.

I finished off my meal with some very good Ontario cheese.

The Wellington Gastropub was a terrific "find" which if you get a chance and are in Ottawa, one should try. I doubt that you will be disappointed.

Thank you Shane [got it right that time], Chef Chris and Paul for a very good meal and evening.

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