By Craig Petter, a first-year journalism student at Carleton University and self-professed oatmeal fiend.
You shuffle into a brunch joint with your friends in the bleak dead of winter, skates slung over your shoulder, fingers numb from the cold. Fresh from a saunter along the canal, you seek warmth and nourishment. No breakfast food accomplishes this dual feat better than a soothing, searing-hot bowl of fresh oatmeal. Your friends, however, are all pining for the usual brunch suspects: French toast, scrambled eggs, sandwiches. While warm, they pale in comparison to oatmeal as a flusher of cheeks and nutritional juggernaut. Tragically, oatmeal is often overlooked and underserved, so I spent a brisk autumn morning seeking out the oatmeal bowls hidden on some of Ottawa’s best brunch menus.
Feast + Revel
325 Dalhousie Street
I ventured first to the refined Andaz Hotel to indulge in some equally refined steel-cut oats at their restaurant Feast + Revel. The room screamed opulence: tables adorned with lilac flowers and shimmering windows behind translucent drapes. Despite the upscale setting, a substantial bowl of maple oatmeal steeped in milk with berries and banana costs a respectable $7, and was worth every penny. Reflecting the sophistication of the restaurant, the oats were neither mushy nor crunchy but firm, suspended in pale pink swirls of milk and juice oozing from the fruits. Others around me were eating tempting plates of French toast, yet I was more than content listening to the ambient music and eating my regal bowl of oatmeal.
Wild Oat Bakery and Café
817 Bank Street
The name was promising; the food delivered. The rustic Wild Oat Bakery and Café boasts a dimly lit, wood-furnished dining area with blue canvas artwork and kids’ colouring on the walls. The entire experience felt homey and intimate. The oatmeal was hot and hearty, dusted with cinnamon sugar, loaded with swollen raisins, and accompanied by a steaming pitcher of milk. The price was a welcome plus: $5 snagged me a cavernous bowl. Wild Oat offers plenty of popular egg dishes, but I urge you to honour their homespun aura and order a reinvigorating bowl of oatmeal. It won’t disappoint.
LIFT Resto Lounge
101 Lyon Street
Inside Ottawa’s downtown Delta Hotel, LIFT serves an innovative bowl of oatmeal to match its sleek, modern atmosphere. I was smitten by the oatmeal, smooth in every sense of the word. A gooey blend of fluffy oats, fresh berries, sweet walnuts, and a dash of syrupy apricot compote, it was so luscious I barely had to chew. This goodness doesn’t come for free, however, costing $13 (still cheaper than the eggs benny), but due to unforeseen complications with the service, I received my heaping bowl on the house. So if you’re not seduced by the idea of impeccable oatmeal, go instead for the impeccable service.
255 Montreal Street
The unremarkable exterior hides a quintessential Canadian diner. Wintry landscapes and printed posters in both official languages line the red walls; there’s even a framed hockey jersey. The simplicity of the space is reflected in their steaming oatmeal (an outlier in their otherwise griddle-centric menu). And when I say steaming, I mean legitimate wisps of steam wafting from the surface. Nothing cute or fancy here: The oatmeal consisted of oats, raisins, and refuge from the bitterness of the coming winter. But the plainness of the ingredients (and mere $3.25 cost) was deceiving: This oatmeal was delicious, dense, and rich, flawlessly complemented by sweet raisins. Bobby’s Table and its oatmeal are both treasures, with no intention of dazzling you but doing so anyway.
Allô! Mon Coco
2277 Riverside Drive
Tucked into the Billings Bridge Shopping Centre (with another location in Gatineau), Allô! Mon Coco is the ideal family brunch establishment. The impressive lineup to enter and the packed red booths infuse this spacious and colourful restaurant with energy and fun. The menu is wide and varied, but for only $6.95 you can enjoy their splendid gruau with toast. Liberally dappled with brown sugar, my oatmeal literally sparkled, and the oats themselves were thick and velvety. I can honestly say I envied none of my neighbours indulging in hash browns and fruit cups. Bring your nephew and your Grandma, order the oatmeal, and expect no less than gastronomical bonheur.
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