Ok, some of you may know – February is a special month for us – we have two big celebrations. And we love to celebrate with a special dinner.
There are several vegan restaurants in town, but in my opinion there is really only one true vegan restaurant in town where you would want to enjoy a special evening and that’s Zen Kitchen. And there’s no denying Zen Kitchen is a really great vegan restaurant and they also have raw vegan options on the menu which is an added bonus – we recently enjoyed their Valentine’s-in-a-box, (although we enjoyed it the weekend before Valentine’s Day) it was really fun and delicious, thanks to Caroline Ishii & David Loan’s creativity!! But it’s also nice to have variety and try different places, different atmosphere and still enjoy something vegan. Granted there are many restaurants that include a vegetarian option on the menu, it’s rare you find vegan options on the menu (at least we have yet to find any, if there are any please let me know!!). I do believe that we will soon see a change, and I’m sure more restaurants will start to include vegan options, especially with all the health benefits of the vegan diet that are so prominent in the news these days. But we don’t seem to be at that place yet here in Ottawa. But I remain hopeful that as more folks like ourselves ask for vegan dishes (or as in our case, almost raw vegan with a twist ) that the restaurants will start to adjust to meet the demand.
But for now, most times when we go out for dinner, I will ask them to create a big green salad with whatever fresh veggies they may have on hand, perhaps a side of cooked veggies, or mixing/matching existing menu options and that has always worked well for me. At times I can select the vegetarian option but without the cheese, or other non-vegan additions. And sometimes we will call in advance. And although most restaurants are happy to make accommodations, we really wanted something extra special for our February celebrations this year.
I remembered we had tried The Wellington Gastropub for dinner in January and I absolutely loved the experience. The service was impeccable, the atmosphere was relaxing and comfortable with a flare of upscale, the food was delicious and the waitress said the chef would gladly adjust any menu item to meet our dietary needs. In fact, she mentioned it was very easy for them to accommodate as they feature a new menu every day. Every day!! How many restaurants do that? I love that – to me that means the ingredients, the ideas & the chef’s creations are fresh and exciting with each and every day!! How great is that? It’s no wonder The Wellington Gastropub is considered one of the best restaurants in the city!! The result, my NEW favourite restaurant!!!
So when it came time to plan for our special event in February we contacted Chef Chris Deraiche, oh my goodness he was amazing!! He was so accommodating and so willing to create something special for us – we could tell that the art of cooking really was his passion!! For our first celebration he emailed us his menu ideas in advance and we loved (LOVED) his creativity. Here is the amazing menu he prepared for us – Yum!!
winter squash & chipotle soup
baby eggplant stuffed with ratatouille,
served with quinoa and basil sauce
lentil & mushroom fritters
w/ stewed eggplant & tomatoes, sesame seed & basil pistou
vanilla poached pear w/ cranberry-orange sorbet
When we arrived we were promptly taken to the best seat in the house!! We had the window seat – what a great treat!! We ordered a nice bottle of wine, and the meal extravaganza began…. all four courses were yummy!! Chris visited us during the meal (it’s those little things that make a difference and show that they care) and it was great to meet the creator of our oh-so-great meal. All-in-all an amazing evening, great food, great service and the best celebration ever.
Then, two weeks later we had our 2nd celebration. We talked about returning to The Wellington Gastropub, but we thought perhaps we should try something different. We called a couple of the other “top” restaurants in town but they weren’t that interested in accommodating our dietary needs. In fact, one of the restaurants first asked us to give them menu ideas and/or they would gladly make a reservation for us at the top vegan restaurant in town!! I found that very odd, sending us to another restaurant vs. letting us enjoy a new ambiance? To me the message was pretty clear that they weren’t interested. While I’m sure there are some (that we didn’t yet contact) that would be willing to accommodate us, it became pretty clear to us that many restaurants in town are not yet in a place where they are able (or willing) to accommodate for certain dietary needs.
This only reinforced my thoughts even more about The Wellington Gastropub!! Without a doubt the wonderful creativity and accommodating nature of Chris Deraiche and the staff stands out from the rest within the city. So once again we touched base with Chris and he was more than willing to welcome us with another special menu, in fact he said we are welcome to let him know any time we wish to visit the restaurant and he will gladly accommodate us. Now that’s service!!!.
This time, we had so much trust in Chris’ creation that there was no need to see the menu in advance – it was a surprise, how I loved that. Again we arrived, Chris surprised us by giving us our “regular” table by the window (don’t you think it’s things like that that differentiate the ok restaurants from the amazingly superior restaurants?). We were presented with our personalized menu and once again the evening proceeded without a glitch!! Everything was perfect. The service was stellar. I find the staff to be very attentive yet at the same time they don’t hover, I love that! The meal, ambiance and service were once again excellent. All in all an amazing celebration.
Without a doubt The Wellington Gastropub is my most favourite restaurant in the city. If you are looking to enjoy an evening where the menu ideas are fresh and creative, the service is impeccable and the ambiance is warm and cozy without being pretentious, then The Wellington Gastropub is the place to visit.
From us, a special thank you to Chris & everyone who made our February 2012 celebrations so memorable. We will be back!!